The Battle of Garnath is going to be the sole thing on this MUSH that ever has a (somewhat) pre-determined ending. We're basically playing out the end of The Guns of Avalon, and we know what's going to happen — the battle will be a close thing, Corwin will show up with riflemen and turn the tide, and Eric will die (or rather, Corwin will think he does, but in our setting he's going to end up revived but comatose, though Corwin, running off to deal with Dara, doesn't see that).
The battle will serve as a test for our War system. What happens in it does matter, because even though the broad details are set, the specifics are not — for instance, how much of Amber's manpower is consumed during the course of the fight, what resources are expended, and what is learned about the invaders in the process. It's also an opportunity for individual PCs to make their mark.
How We're Getting to That Point
During the course of the game thus far, players have been roleplaying a variety of preparations regarding the Black Road invasion. Based on what people have been focusing on, we've chosen four scenes that will be the pivot points of the battle. They are:
1. Arden, on the edge of Garnath.
2. On the banks of the Oisen, holding a keep against the oncoming force.
3. The beachhead - a counterattack from the sea.
4. The open field, within sight of Kolvir.
Each of these scenes has explicit stakes at risk — props and stuff that matters that can be won or lost, in addition to whatever you choose to risk. Either way the scene goes, things will hopefully be fun and interesting — as GMs, our primary job is to entertain, and to give you a chance to illuminate what you've done in previous roleplay and let it pay off on a larger stage.
Our GMing approach is probably very different from anything that you've seen before. The battle's going to be based on what you, the players, have decided is important, as represented by what you've been roleplaying and what you've been writing tokens about.
Our role, as storytellers, is not to look at "winning" or "losing" or to present a set story. Our role is to find ways to provide villainy and obstacles that allow you to make your characters look cool, and for all of these preparations that you've made to matter. We also want to present you with some dramatic choices — places where you decide what's important to you and therefore, create the situation that will exist after the battle is done.
Understand that, in the end, it's the role of the villains to lose. The question is largely just how, and when, and what damage they're able to inflict, before they do lose. The Guns of Avalon says that Amber wins overall — but there's plenty of detail that you all will flesh out through your actions, and decisions that will matter.
We're asking you to write tokens so we know what's important to your characters. These tokens can be plans, troops, fortifications, special things that you can create with your gifts, and so forth. (Benedict's player has kindly agreed to keep track of these for us.)
We know that some players are concerned about exactly what the mechanical impact of tokens will be, and how they best set up to "win". What we're trying to articulate here is that this (or, for that matter, anything else we GM) is not a situation where it is Players vs. the Staff, in which you are trying to Beat Our Villain. Rather, simply put, we are trying to give you an opportunity to be awesome, in a no-holds barred situation in which you can beat up the NPCs in cool ways, hopefully with a couple of dramatic turning points thrown in along the way. Stop trying to think about how to win, and start thinking about what will give your character the opportunity to be awesome.
Where We Are Afterwards
From canon and a little imagination, we derive the following:
- Julian and the Rangers are fighting on the Black Road on the way into the Valley of Garnath.
- Benedict leads the troops in the Valley itself. This is where the cavalry is.
- Gerard and Caine are assigned to deal with the detachments executing manuevers. (But when Eric is wounded, Gerard returns to him.)
- The main body of the troops is dug in at the base of a high cliff at the foot of Kolvir, and has a contingent of archers. Eric is with them, and is using the Jewel of Judgement to blast things.
- After Eric's apparent death, Gerard passes Ganelon and the riflemen to Benedict in the Valley. A mop-up operation commences.
Passages from The Guns of Avalon follow.
Corwin's observation of the morning of the battle
During what passed for morning, we advanced perhaps five miles toward Kolvir before bearing off to the west. It was one of three possible routes we could follow, and I had always considered it the best for a possible attack. The birds came to plague us again, several times, with greater numbers and persistency. Shooting a few of them, though, was all it took to route the entire flock.
Finally, we rounded the base of a huge escarpment, our way taking us outward and upward through thunder and mist, until we were afforded a sudden vista, sweeping down and out for dozens of miles across the Valley of Garnath that lay to our right. I called a halt and moved forward to observe.
When last I had seen that once lovely valley, it had been a twisted wilderness. Now, things were even worse. The black road cut through it, running to the base of Kolvir itself, where it halted. A battle was raging within the valley. Mounted forces swirled together, engaged, wheeled away. Lines of foot soldiers advanced, met, fell back. The lightning kept flashing and striking among them. The dark birds swept about them like ashes on the wind.The dampness lay like a cold blanket. The echoes of the thunder bounced about the peaks. I stared, puzzling, at the conflict far below.
The distance was too great for me to determine the combatants. At first it occurred to me that someone else might be about the same thing I was — that perhaps Bleys had survived and returned with a new army.
But no. These were coming in from the west, along the black road. And I saw now that the birds accompanied them, and bounding forms that were neither horses nor men. The manticoras, perhaps.
The lightnings fell upon them as they came, scattering, burning, blasting. As I realized that they never struck near the defenders, I recalled that Eric had apparently gained some measure of control over that device known as the Jewel of Judgment, with which Dad had exercised his will upon the weather about Amber. Eric had employed it against us with considerable effect five years earlier.
So the forces from Shadow about which I had been hearing reports, were even stronger than I had thought. I had envisioned harassment, but not a pitched battle at the foot of Kolvir. I looked down at the movements within the blackness. The road seemed almost to writhe from the activity about it.
Corwin's observation of the afternoon of the battle
When we came to a safe-seeming place later that afternoon — a place within five miles of the northern skirts of Amber — I halted us again, for rest and a final meal. We had to scream at one another in order to be heard, so I could not address the men. I simply passed the word along concerning our proximity and the need for readiness.
I took my rations with me and scouted on ahead while the others rested. About a mile farther along, I mounted a steep upturn, pausing when I achieved its crest. There was a battle of some sort in progress on the slopes ahead.
I kept out of sight and observed. A force out of Amber was engaged with a larger body of attackers which must have either preceded us up the slope or arrived by different means. I suspected the latter, inasmuch as we had seen no signs of recent passage. The engagement explained our own good fortune in not encountering defensive patrols on the way up.
I moved nearer. While the attackers could have come up by one of the two other routes, I saw additional evidence that this need not have been the case. They were still arriving, and it was a most fearsome sight, for they were airborne.
They swept in from the west like great gusts of windblown leaves. The aerial movement I had witnessed from the distance had been of greater variety than the belligerent bird life. The attackers came in on winged, two-legged, dragon-like creatures, the closest parallel with which I was familiar being a heraldic beast, the wyvern. I had never seen a non-decorative wyvern before, but then I had never felt any great desire to go looking for one.
Among the defenders were numerous archers, who took a deadly toll of these in flight. Sheets of pure hell erupted among them also, as the lightnings flashed and flared, sending them like cinders toward the ground. But still they came on, landing, so that both man and beast could attack those entrenched. I looked for and located the pulsating glow given off by the Jewel of Judgment when it has been tuned to operate. It came from the midst of the largest body of defenders, dug in near the base of a high cliff.
I stared and studied, focusing on the wearer of the gem. Yes, there could be no doubt. It was Eric.
On my belly now, I crawled even farther. I saw the leader of the nearest party of defenders behead a landing wyvem with a single sword stroke. With his left hand, he seized the harness of its rider and buried him over thirty feet, out beyond the lip-like brink of the place. As he turned then to shout an order, I saw that it was Gerard. He appeared to be leading a flanking assault on a mass of the attackers who were assailing the forces at the foot of the cliff. On its far side, a similar body of troops was doing likewise. Another of my brothers?
I wondered how long the battle had been in progress, both in the valley and here above. Quite a while, I guessed, considering the duration of the unnatural storm.
I moved to the right, turning my attention to the west. The battle in the valley continued unabated. From this distance, it was impossible to tell who was who, let alone who was winning. I could see, though, that no new forces were arriving from out of the west to supplement the attackers.
I was perplexed as to my own best course of action. Clearly, I could not attack Eric when he was engaged in anything this crucial to the defense of Amber herself. Waiting to pick up the pieces afterward might be wisest. However, I could already feel the rat teeth of doubt at work on that idea.
Even without reinforcements for the attackers, the outcome of the encounter was by no means clear-cut. The invaders were strong, numerous. I had no idea as to what Eric might have in reserve. At that moment, it was impossible for me to gauge whether war bonds for Amber would be a good investment. If Eric lost, it would then be necessary for me to take on the invaders myself, after much of Amber's manpower had been wasted.
If I were to move in now with automatic weapons, there was little doubt in my mind that we would crush the wyvern-riders quickly. For that matter, one or more of my brothers had to be down in the valley. A gateway for some of my troops could be set up by means of the Trumps. It would surprise whatever was down there for Amber suddenly to come up with riflemen.
I returned my attention to the conflict nearer at hand. No, it was not going well. I speculated as to the results of my intervening. Eric would certainly be in no position to turn on me. Besides any sympathy that might be mine for whathe had put me through, I would be responsible for pulling his nuts out of the fire. While he would be grateful for the relief, he would not be too happy over the general sentiment this would arouse. No, indeed. I would be back in Amber with a very deadly personal bodygnard and a lot of goodwill going for me. An intrigu
ing thought. It would provide a far smoother route to my objective than the brutal frontal assault culminating in regicide that I had had in mind.
I felt myself smiling. I was about to become a hero.
Corwin shows up with guns
The wyvern-riders were all over the place and their beasts fought along with them. They were pressing the defenders back against the cliff face. I sought for but could not locate Eric or the glow of his jewel. They were all of them landing now that heaven's artillery had let up. As soon as they struck the solid surface, they charged forward. I searched among the defenders, but Gerard was no longer in sight.
"Bring up the troops," I said, raising my rifle. "Tell them to get the beasts and the riders both."
Ganelon withdrew, and I took aim at a descending wyvern, fired, and watched its swoop turn into a sudden flurry of pinions. It struck against the slope and began to flop about. I fired again. The beast began to burn as it died. Soon I had three bonfires going. I crawled up to my second previous position. Secure, I took aim and fired once more. I got another, but by then some of them were turning in my direction. I fired the rest of my ammo and hastened to reload. Several of them had begun moving toward me by then. They were quite fast.
I managed to stop them and was reloading again when the first rifle squad arrived. We put down a heavier fire, and began to advance as the others came up. It was all over within ten minutes. Within the first five they had apparently realized that they hadn't a chance, and they began to flee back toward the ledge, launching themselves into space, becoming airborne again. We shot them down as they ran, and burning flesh and smoldering bones lay everywhere about us.
The moist rock rose sheer to our left, its summit lost in the. clouds, so that it seemed as if it might tower endlessly above us. The winds still whipped the smoke and the mists, and the rocks were smeared and splotched with blood. As we had advanced, firing, the forces of Amber quickly realized that we represented assistance and began to push forward from their position at the base of the cliff. I saw that they were being led by my brother Caine. For a moment our eyes locked together across the distance, then he plunged ahead into the fray.
Scattered groups of Amberites united into a second force as the attackers fell back. Actually, they limited our field of fire when they attacked the far flank of the wizened beast-men and their wyverns, but I had no way of getting word of this to them. We drew closer, and our firing was accurate.
A small knot of men remained at the base of the cliff. I had a feeling they were guarding Eric, and that he had possibly been wounded, since the storm effects had ceased abruptly. I worked my own way off in that direction.
After an exchange with Gerard and Eric, Corwin calls Benedict
In the valley below me, the fighting continued, the cavalry flowing like turbulent waters, merging, eddying, receding, the infantry still swarming like insects.
I drew forth the cards I had taken from Benedict. I removed his own from the deck. It shimmered before me, and after a time there was contact.
He was mounted on the same red and black horse on which he had pursued me. He was in motion and there was fighting all about him. Seeing that he confronted another horseman, I remained still. He spoke but a single word. "Bide," he said.
He dispatched his opponent with two quick movements of his blade. Then he wheeled his mount and began to withdraw from the fray. I saw that his horse's reins had been lengthened and were looped and tied loosely about the remainder of his right arm. It took him over ten minutes to remove himself to a place of relative calm. When he had, he regarded me, and I could tell that he was also studying the prospect that lay at my back.
"Yes, I am on the heights," I told him. "We have won. Eric died in the battle."
He continued to stare, waiting for me to go on. His face betrayed no emotion.
"We won because I brought riflemen," I said. "I finally found an explosive agent that functions here." His eyes narrowed and he nodded. I felt that he realized immediately what the stuff was and where it had come from. "While there are many things I want to discuss with you," I continued, "I want to take care of the enemy first. If you will hold the contact, I will send you several hundred riflemen."
He smiled. "Hurry," he said.
I shouted for Ganelon, and he answered me from only a few paces away. I told him to line the troops up, single file. He nodded and went off, shouting orders.
Corwin passes Benedict's Trump to Gerard, and runs off to deal with Dara.