Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Battle of Fort Frost

The following is based on a true story. Names and locations have been altered or omitted out of respect for the dead. Due to the graphic nature of this story, reader discretion is advised.

Fort Frost, named after one of its chief architects, rested along the Suydam river where it could protect the only passable ford for miles.  Channeled around the front of the fort, a branch of the river served as a moat against frontal assaults, with only a drawbridge and small footbridge allowing anyone to enter the fort proper.  Traders and travelers could make use of the shallow fords to cross both branches, but the road passed directly under the watchful eye of one wall of the fort's defenses and a small redoubt tower.

War would find the fort, its position too valuable to be squandered easily or ignored.  The summer heat still lingered during the early parts of fall that year, prompting an attack near the beginning of October.   Fortunate, for the defenders, the harvest feast had drawn in a great deal of local soldiers and knights from their campaigns elsewhere.  They would be well prepared.

Word had spread about the army marching towards the fort, giving them time to prepare a few defenses along the ford.  The drawbridge, like much of the fort, had fallen into disrepair and could not be shut.  They would have to fight hard from the beginning in order to hold out.  Without the gate, they decided to position their forces to each crossing, hoping to be able to defend the bottlenecks from whatever the enemy had in store for them.  The outer defenses that had been placed across the moat would have to be abandoned, as there would not be enough men to hold them and secure the fort.

It was after midday when the enemy approached.  Cloudless skies and the sunny morning had left the humid air at a sweltering temperature across the barren plain to the West.  The enemy approached en masse, carrying no siege equipment and without cavalry; they would find no need of either.  They pushed up into the hail of arrows coming from the fort under cover of a shield formation until they reached the outer defenses.  What had once been planned as the first layer of defense was quickly repurposed by the attackers to protect themselves from arrows and to station archers of their own.

Defenders of the fort try to hold ground near the ford.
Photo by: Ellie Apland

Soon the battle raged across all three crossings.  The attackers found the two bridges to be well guarded.  A central redan tower jutted out into the moat, allowing the defenders to rain arrows down from the sides of both bridges as well as from the main wall.  Palisades had a similar effect in guarding the flanks of the ford, making any attempt to cross a dangerous affair.

The ford was the first to fall. The outer palisades had given them cover from the bulk of the fort's arrow fire, allowing them to mass troops there unopposed. A great blood price had been paid for the crossing, but the attackers had pushed back the defenders to the side gate of the fort. A small band of them skirted past the fort and looked for another way in. They would find the rear sally port lightly defended, only a few guards and one older knight.

Fort Frost at the height of the battle.
With the attacks at the bridges and side gate, this small battle would prove decisive, the victor having free reign to attack the enemy rearguard. The attackers formed up and advanced on the back gate. They expected to easily push through and swarm the fort.

The attackers were unprepared for the ferocity the knight had on the defense. He strode out, by himself, leaving his men to guard the gate. Outnumbered, he fought more as a predator than cornered animal. He strafed back and forth across their line, herding them more than fighting. Anyone who strayed from the line was cut down with a growl. He knew, from his many years of experience, that he only needed to buy time for his allies to crush the rest of the attack.

Even with his skill and determination, it was inevitable that the attackers would land a blow here and there.  The first hit him squarely on the left greave.  It would have been enough to break a man's leg, but it barely slowed him down, his armor absorbing the hit without much complaint.  He returned the strike in kind, cutting into his attacker's arm with a quick slash.  That man would never be able to hold a sword in his right hand again.

The Knight strafed the line, back and forth, keeping the enemy at bay.

He strafed the opposite direction, trading blows with a man towards the middle of the formation.  His bracer was left dented and nearly falling off from the damage, but he managed to land a solid strike to the armpit in return, just above the armor.  The blood flowed easily, covering the victim as he dropped out of formation.

Another swing clanged off of his right greave as one of them rushed in to try to stop his maneuvering.  Undaunted by the charge, he planted his foot squarely in the middle of his attacker's shield.  The sudden impact sent the man reeling, and easy prey for the knight.

As the din of battle subsided around the front and side of the fort, reinforcements arrived to bolster the rear gate's defenses.  They found the knight, still holding his ground against the remnants of the attackers.  The pile of dead surrounding the knight was a testament to his fury.  He took little notice of his allies and continued to press the attack until each and every one of this enemies was either dead or fleeing.

The immense effort finally catching up with him as the adrenaline faded, the knight sunk to the ground, fighting to fill his lungs with breath.  Cheers of victory reached his ears from men who would never know of his role in saving their lives.  Those that witnessed it would drink in his honor that night.

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