The Long Retreat No. 16

“How did we lose?” Hrothgar said. Alfhilde gave him a look, and murmured something below Falthejn’s hearing.

“No,” said Falthejn, “the question is a fair one. What news have you had heard of the war so far?”

“Too little,” said Hrothgar.

More helpfully, Alfhilde said, “We know that we fight the dweorgr, and that these— ontr, you call them? They have joined in.”

“Near enough.” Falthejn leaned experimentally against the wall of the cavern. He found it comfortable enough. “Between us and their foes from beeper below the surface, the dweorgr did not care to fight a third front. They shut up the ways below the mountains from the south, until it became clear to them that the ontr would go over the mountains just as easily. After that, the dweorgr closed their halls altogether. No man has seen a dweorg since the start of summer.”

“The War of Man and Dweorg is three months ended?” Alfhilde said, eyebrows rising in surprise.

“So it would seem.” Falthejn said. He paused for a moment, sizing her up. “You have the look of a fighter,” he ventured.

She looked pleased. “In the war with the dweorgr, and for some time before. I met Hrothgar when the thane’s army camped near the city.”

Falthejn nodded approval. “The dweorgr were honorable foes. These ontr are not. Should we find ourselves face to face with them, do not forget,” he advised. “After the dweorgr fell back, we went back north and celebrated. The next word of these ontr reached us only a month ago: survivors from the first attack on the north side of the mountains told what had happened. We were on our way soon after.”

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The Long Retreat No. 15

Falthejn unrolled his bedroll at the mouth of the chamber. Sif set up a few yards away, nearer him than Hrothgar and Alfhilde. The couple unpacked at the back of the chamber, six yards away. Alfhilde unbound the pan from her arm, setting the makeshift shield down next to her, and laid her hatchet in it. She unbundled Jakob, who cooed. Adjusting her garments, Alfhilde turned away and began to feed him.

“What do we count among our supplies?” Hrothgar rumbled, working at the lacing sealing his pack.

“Trail bread, for the most part.” Falthejn ticked off items on his fingers. “Bedding, of course. Traveling clothes, should the weather turn. Dried fruit and nuts.” He shrugged. “Enough to see us to Flodsvadgard, if we keep to a good pace.”

Silence settled over the cave. Falthejn sat on his bedroll, yawned, and said, “You have questions.”

“How did you— oh.” Sif tilted her head. “I see.”

Falthejn smiled. “You are a quick learner.”

In response, Sif stared at him intently. The quiet stretched on, and eventually Falthejn waved for her to speak.

“If you can see the future,” Sif said, exasperated, “why am I saying this out loud?”

“For one, it’s polite.” Falthejn showed a weary grin. “For another, I don’t see the future all the time. I can rely on instinct, on bad feelings, to tell me when I need to be careful. To see things clearly takes effort. All magic does.” He yawned again. Tension flowed from him as he felt the stretch in his jaw. “Look at me, for example. For two weeks—more than two weeks—since our march south to Syderskogholm, I’ve been at full speed. I could sleep the whole winter through.”

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The Long Retreat No. 14

A few minutes’ scramble down the hillside brought them to the cave. Hanging moss obscured the entrance. Alfhilde pushed it aside. “Do you have a torch?”

“Something better,” Falthejn said. He set his extra pack down, felt through his pockets, and came up with an intricately-carved piece of wood. Alfhilde thought she recognized the type. Confirming her suspicion, Falthejn spoke a few aelfish words at it, and it began to glow faintly. Some magiker were trained in the craft of little trinkets, imbued somehow with spells of various sorts. Once or twice, during the last campaign, she’d used them.

Falthejn edged past her, cupping his hand over the light to hide it. Its glow penetrated a mere few yards into the cave, revealing moss-covered rocks and the occasional patch of stone slick with water. The diviner looked over his shoulder. “How far in does it go?”

“Two dozen yards, about,” Hrothgar said. “I do not know of any other entrances.”

“It will do,” Falthejn judged. He took a step into the cavern. “Sif, could you bring my other pack?”


They settled in at the back of the cave, where the narrow passage opened into an oblong chamber. Falthejn let everyone else file in after him, then set the light in the center of the cavern. Sif set her pack down near him. Falthejn unstrapped the bedroll from its top and passed it to her. She took it carefully, as though it were of great value, and smiled.

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Breaking silence update

Sorry for the delays in updating, folks—it’s been a busy week since I got back from my business trip, and today is the first day since then that I’m going to have a real chance to sit down and write. You can expect a regular one tomorrow. Maybe even a little longer, since primarily conversation and I don’t want to break that up too much.

I have the next story pretty solidly laid out. I don’t expect this one to be all that long—there are three major plot points to hit, I think, with some interstitial stuff, and then we’re through to the next one.

This is also the year of publication; We Sail Off To War is more or less ready, but it does need another couple of passes to clean up prose and potentially remove a section. More information as it’s available. I’m targeting a fall release date. (I realize I said that in 2014, but I also didn’t realize, at the time, that I would be moving across the country in 2014.)

Anyway, that’s that. See you tomorrow.

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The Long Retreat No. 13

Hrothgar frowned. “Selfish,” he mumbled.

Alfhilde lifted a shoulder, then rocked Jakob gently. “I can’t argue with their results. Do you—”

“There they are,” Hrothgar said.

Alfhilde turned halfway, and there they were, emerging from the gloom much nearer than she’d expected. The girl seemed calmer, but Alfhilde couldn’t say for sure that it would last. “Sif,” she said. “I am Alfhilde. This is my husband, Hrothgar Hrafnssen.” Hrothgar grunted, and Alfhilde added, “Are you alright?”

Sif nodded, edging a little closer as Falthejn faced the cairn, then took three long steps to his left and walked forward gingerly.

“What are you doing now?” the girl asked.

Falthejn stopped, bending over to sweep pine needles and a few fallen branches away, revealing a shallow trench. In it, five canvas packs sat in a neat row. One at a time, he lifted them out of the trench and set them down next to it. “Hrothgar Hrafnssen, do you know of anywhere we might spend the night out of sight? Ontr have reached the forest.”

“This place is called Grotascairn,” Hrothgar replied. “The mouth of the cave is just down the hill.”

“Good.” Falthejn slung one of the packs onto his back, then hefted another by the straps. “Bring the other three. We will leave behind what we cannot carry.”

Sif moved to try one of the packs on for size, but Hrothgar waved her away. He handed Alfhilde his axe, put one on, and picked up the other two, one in each hand. Alfhilde smiled. That was her Hrothgar, sure enough.

Falthejn nodded. “Lead on.”

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2015 update

Welcome to the New Year, readers!

I’m still on a bit of a break, and will be returning to regular story updates on either Friday the 9th or Tuesday the 13th (depending on how lazy I am after traveling). In the meantime, have a look through the archives, if you’ve not been keeping up, or pop over to the Fish Bowl for some new Procurement Games posts tonight, including the exciting conclusion to Parvusimperator’s fighter selection process (… or is it?) and my ruminations upon the multirole frigate landscape. We’ll be tackling more 2014 Procurement Games1 and alternate history topics at the Fish Bowl in the coming months. Stay tuned.

In writing news, I’ve made progress on The Long Retreat, and have solidified my plans for the story to follow it. It’s a universe I’ve mentioned, but have not, to my recollection, posted writing in; it’s a lot of fun, I think, and I’m looking forward to being able to release it. (You know, once I get through this current tale.)

I’m expecting updates to be as regular as they ever are through the end of April. I have a move and a wedding coming up in early June, though, so I may be on an extended break from regular updates from early May through mid-to-late June. I’ll probably solicit submissions for material to run in that time. I’ll keep you posted2.

1. In the same sense that the upcoming Super Bowl is the 2014 Super Bowl.
2. Just probably not with regular story updates.

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Breaking Fortress Holland No. 5

The Endgame


Guderian’s plan wins with one vote (to zero to zero), so the 481st Regiment cancels its attack along the Mill axis and receives its orders to exit the map at the northern exit point.

The leading elements of I/454 have exited the map, but the rest are taking a nap, maddeningly near the exit point. (They’ve been working hard for thirty-six hours, though, so I’m content to give them a pass for a few hours. They’ll get off in time.)


II/454 had orders to move exit the map, attacking as necessary, and so they’re providing security for our move off the map, attacking an infantry gun battery. III/454 moves past them.

You’ll notice the 481st Regiment’s HQ is highlighted, and its route is showing on the map. Unfortunately, the 481st’s staff planned the the move before the morning brought more of the enemy into view, and chose rather a poor route. It’ll take them longer to replan the whole move from the starting point than it will for them to bypass enemy positions, so I’ll leave it be.


III/454 is well on its way off the map, one of its companies having exited already. The other two are still on the way. II/454 attacks the headquarters unit southwest of the track our troops are leaving along, which has been firing on us repeatedly.

Earlier in the day, I gave orders to one of the pioneer companies attached to I/476, holding the south flank of our penetration, to head for the exit point. It’s currently underneath the counter for the 454th Regiment HQ, also well on its way.


III/454 has exited the map altogether now. The other pioneer company attached to I/476 receives its orders to exit.

II/454 engages the enemy east of Trent, and they’re rapidly overwhelming the HQ unit there. The leading elements of the 481st Regiment engage a headquarters west of Langenboom. Airstrikes and artillery support both assaults.


An hour and a half later, II/454 and II/481 have defeated their associated headquarters. The 481st Regiment replans its move, bending further south from the remaining Dutch unit to the north.


All of the 454th Regiment except its headquarters has exited the map, and we’re very close to finishing the objective. Whether or not we do will hinge on how quickly the front of the 481st Regiment can cover the last two kilometers.


The 5th Company of the 481st Regiment double-times it off the map, finishing off the objective.


The scenario ends with a minor victory, which will give us minor advantages starting the next scenario. Our troops made a good account for themselves, exacting a casualty ratio of about 6.5 to 1.

The final situation reveals that the Dutch have a reasonably hefty force able to contest the Cuijk bridge. I figure the follow-up elements will take care of them, given that they’re likely in poor supply.

That’s Melee at Mill. I’m gratified to report that following your directions bought me my best-ever result in this scenario. I had a look at the starting positions of the next one, and man, is it going to be tricky. Not only is the map eight kilometers longer (a full thirty across), we have a very small force on the map to start, slower reinforcements, stiffer opposition, and the first French units to contend with.

Look for it to start sometime in mid-January. I’ll let you know when.

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Breaking Fortress Holland No. 4

Melee at Mill: Day 1, 2000-Day 2, 0400


Guderian’s plan goes into effect. 476th Regiment HQ, II Battalion, and III Battalion will be lining up northwest of the woods across the river from Mill. III/456, at Peel-Raam 2, will be attacking up between the woods and the river.

454 Regiment will march south of the woods where I/476 is right now, and then march through the gap.


Although the attack at Mill has obviously been stalled for a little while, the commander on the scene now agrees, and the units involved prepare to fall back toward the staging area at St. Hubert.

II/481, now moving from its positions at the Gennep crossing, is marching to St. Hubert to aid in the attack there.


It’s fully dark now, and the flanking units are getting on the way. At Cuijk, the security units have pushed back a Dutch probe. II/481 is on the march.

At Mill, III/456 is in position to begin its attack.


I/476, having pushed the Dutch off of the Peel-Raam 2 objective, now moves to defend the southern flank of our push past the Dutch lines.

The 481st Regiment HQ, using both battalions at St. Hubert and the incoming II/481, plans a new attack on Mill, as the 454th Regiment gets under way.


The attack toward Mill from the southwest is doing well, assaulting a Dutch position in the fortifications and driving the Dutch infantry off of it quickly. Over the next half-hour, they’ll kill or capture fifty men.


In this image, both elements of the flanking force are well on their way. In a few minutes, they should be crossing the Peel-Raam line.


To my admitted surprise, this is working rather well.

I jinxed it. As I and II Battalions of the 454th Regiment receive their orders to move off the map, the column grinds to a stop spread out between the Peel-Raam line and the exit, while the leading elements of I Battalion run into a huge base formation: seven hundred men between us and the exit.

As a consolation prize, elements of the 476th Regiment come across the Dutch artillery which has been pounding us all along, and engage it in close combat.

If, at the beginning of the scenario, III/481 had gone east instead of south, we would have come across it early in the fight, but we probably wouldn’t have gained and held the Peel-Raam 2 objective to make the gap we’re currently pouring through.


The situation as it stands, with eight hours to go. The 454th Regiment has a little bit of opposition in its way. The new, ad-hoc 481st Regiment has an attack planned through Mill and up to the positions currently being attacked by II and III Battalions, 476th Regiment west of Mill, but is currently not engaged.

Here are your options to carry us through the end of the scenario.

Guderian – Cancel the 481st Regiment’s attack, and march them through the gap behind the 454th Regiment toward the exit northwest of Graspeel.
von Rundstedt – Let the 481st Regiment’s attack free elements of the 476th and 456th Regiments, which will then proceed to the exit.
Paulus – Let the 481st Regiment’s attack distract the Dutch, while withdrawing the I/476 toward Graspeel and the exit, exiting it along with the 454th Regiment.

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Breaking Fortress Holland No. 3

Mill: Day 1, 1200-2000

It’s noon, and I take care of some business first. I send the new bridging company, the pioneer company that came with it, and one of the pioneer companies from the bridging operation at Cuijk to Gennep to build a new crossing point.

It can’t come too soon. Gennep is still a mess, traffic-wise.

At Haps, I plan my attack on Mill. An important aspect of attacking well is finding a covered position where the attacking force can form up. I played around some with the area line-of-sight tool.

The Command Ops engine works in units of 100-meter grid squares, and the red square is the square from which I’m checking visibility. It’s on the southeast edge of Mill. As I expected, because Holland is very flat, the town of St. Hubert screens me from view from Mill. I give the orders, sending II/456 and I/481 to Mill, and III/456 to support Peel-Raam 2.


At the Peel-Raam 2 objective, III/481 is very heavily outnumbered.


Between Gennep and Cuijk, I/454 cleans up some more defenders. The unit under fire here is shortly obliterated, and in half an hour or so, the battalion is on the march toward Cuijk proper.


Peel-Raam 2 is heavily pressed. Unfortunately, the artillery is too far back to fire in support. I’ll have to move it up to support.

I/454 is almost done at Cuijk. I have a number of motorized pioneer companies in the backfield, which will serve nicely as security—they’re fast enough to move between Gennep and Cuijk relatively quickly, and strong enough to beat back attacks by whatever the Dutch have left between the Maas and the canal.


Our last wave of reinforcements arrives. II/454 has been waiting for III/454 to arrive, and now the 454th Regiment HQ will be leading them both to Haps. I/454 will be joining them soon.

A long line of units heads from Gennep to Haps. Once I/454 has advanced to Cuijk, it’ll be on the way to Haps, too.


In the west, I/476 receives orders to move from Haps to support the Peel-Raam 2 objective. I/476 is a reinforced battalion; it has its usual complement of three infantry companies, plus two pioneer companies.


III/481 is ever more heavily pressed. We get an airstrike, which immediately goes to support that valiant battalion.

III/456 begins its attack on Peel-Raam 2, and the other two battalions start pushing toward Mill, making good progress to the outskirts of the town.

The artillery arrives at Haps, and immediately begins to fire in support of the defense at Peel-Raam 2 and the attack at Mill.

I/454 is officially en-route from Cuijk to Haps.


Not a lot of note happens for the next hour and a half. The Mill attack runs into determined resistance, and isn’t able to push across the canaal yet.

Five hours late, the 481st Regiment HQ arrives at Haps. I send it on toward St. Hubert. If we have to regroup, we can organize I/481 and II/456 into an ad-hoc regiment under the 481st HQ.


The attack at Mill has bogged down, but the extra battalion at Peel-Raam 2 has helped to push the Dutch back a little. I/476 is on the way, and with its extra weight, will be able to push down the road toward the exit.

The bridging detail at Gennep finishes its work. Since it’s a moderately large formation (two pioneer companies at 200 men each, two bridging companies at 60 men each), I assign it to guard the bridges at Gennep, freeing II/481 to head toward Haps.

The Dutch still have three or four companies of infantry behind the front lines, but I doubt they’re in very good supply at this point, and the little security forces I have left ought to be able to hold them off.

It’s becoming clear that Mill will need more men to achieve a significant breakthrough.


The eastern portion of the map is full of reinforcements streaming forward to Haps. The current security detail at Cuijk is the 254th Infanterie-Division headquarters with two pioneer companies. At the Gennep crossing, there’s the 256th Infanterie-Division headquarters, along with two pioneer companies and two bridging companies.


Sneaking in one last order before the deadline, I notice the situation at Peel-Raam 2 has improved somewhat. I/476 is advancing implacably, so I order III/456 to make a flanking attack into the defenders at Mill.


In the west, all five battalions are committed—two attacking Mill, two securing Peel-Raam 2 and pushing southwest, and one flanking at Mill.

In the east, reinforcements are assembling. At Haps is the entire 454th Infanterie Regiment, with three battalions and all supporting elements, along with two-thirds of the 476th Infanterie Regiment (I/476 is at Peel-Raam 2.) II/481 is marching to Haps, but won’t be there for a few hours more, and it isn’t worth the waiting.

Here are your options:
Guderian – Move the 476th Infanterie to Mill, joining the attack on the southern flank of the town to seal it off. Under cover of darkness, march the 454th Infanterie in its entirety through the gap between Mill and Peel-Raam 2, then northwest to the northern exit point, hoping to dodge the defenders entirely.

von Rundstedt – Move the 476th Infanterie to Mill, joining the attack on the town. Move the 454th Infanterie south toward Peel-Raam 2, then flank the town, eliminate the defenders, and march on the northern exit.

Paulus – Move the 476th Infanterie to Peel-Raam 2, pushing southwest with I/476. At the same time, move the 454th Infanterie to Mill. While they begin an attack, withdraw the current force, turn it into a provisional regiment, and sneak through the gap between Peel-Raam 2 and Mill.


Guderian – 3 (2 here, 1 Bay12 forum)
von Rundstedt – (2 Bay12 forum)

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