"And another one bites the dust!" ~ Forde Trade Union chant when enemy cannonfire hits sandbags



Howard appeared troubled. Though the artillery brigade he led was in the vanguard, he had been trapped in the area for more than three days. He had not expected this to happen. His brigade and the sentry legion had marched at the forefront since entering Feldunba. They never once encountered a fort that could weather their attack. The enemies ran in fear and most o the time after the first cannon shell hit.

The Trade Union had long been prepared for their attack, but they didn't know where it would happen. They thought it would most likely start in the south. Given that those areas were only recently conquered, not many nobles had moved in.

They'd also been severely depopulated by recruitment drives during the war. Most of the agricultural produce was also confiscated to fund the war.  The area was severely destabilized. If not for the depopulation, the revolts might have been large enough to kick the Union out.

They believed the Nortons would march through the area and charge straight into the Union's heartland. They planned to let them march deep into their own territory before cutting off their supply lines and letting them starve.

Lorist attacked Mayflower's Feldunba instead. The Union scrambled to reposition their forces, but it was a little late. Clearly the enemy wasn't aiming to take land, but to destroy the guilds.

Duke Cobleit, however, breathed a sigh of relief rather than stressing. The territory had been ruled for just five years, but it was already covered in forts. It would become a wall against which House Norton would smash itself to pieces.

The duke didn't think they could push through the province, even with their cannons. He'd let the two sides duke it out while his faction just provided logistical support.  With Mayflower weakened, his position within the Union would be secure again. Mayflower and its allies, however, put severe pressure on him and he was forced to deploy troops as well.

......

The thunderous booms bounced through the mountains.

Howard stared at the fort's walls but they just wouldn't collapse.

"How long 'till Ovidis arrives?" he asked between thunder strikes.

"Thunderbolt Brigade was deployed in the rear. It'll take them four days to get here," his subordinate shouted, "Sir Ovidis himself should arrive tomorrow."

"Sigh, I should've stopped His Grace from releasing those damned sailors," complained Howard.

He signalled for the bombardment to and and descended the hill.

"Sir, are we not continuing the bombardment?"

"Best save our gunpowder. Those walls aren't going to give. We'll have to wait for Ovidis. Only his catapults can get us inside now."

"I doubt he'll have any more luck than us, Sir. With the way the walls tower over the terrains outside, we'll have to be within their firing range to get things over the walls. Our cannons are already on the edge of being in range."

Howard stroked his chin frustratedly.

"We've no choice, commander. You saw yourself. They've lined the walls with sandbags. We don't have the firepower to blast through them and the walls quickly. It's those damned sailors! They must have told them about the tactics they used when we last fought them.

"We're just wasting gunpowder. Our only hope is lobbing sacks over the walls, which our cannons can't do. Any better ideas?"

The men kept quiet. There was indeed no other option. They couldn't go around the fort, the cliffs and marshes wouldn't let them, and the fort was on top of a big rocky mound which meant they had to fire up at it. They just had no options.

They couldn't charge in for a standard assault because the walls were littered with catapults and ballista. They could still take the fort, but with unacceptable casualties.

The fort was a crucial chokepoint, they could only push through into the rest of the province through here, otherwise they'd have to go a long way around to attack from the south, but both the delay and the new location were unacceptable.

Their approach was also severely limited by the cliffs. They had to approach the main gate via a thing outcrop which made their massive number advantage null and void.

"They're turtles!" shouted Lorist when he got the report.

While the Union didn't own a cannon or anything similar, they had learned how to deal with it quite effectively. There was no decent counter to this yet. There were only two options.  Either make the cannons bigger, which current metalworking technology didn't allow, and which would use to much gunpowder anyway, or develope howitzers and mortars, but they were years away from anything even resembling something like that.

The Union's main tactic to deal with cannons was to charge in a team of elite soldiers, mostly gold ranks and one or two blademasters, to take out the crews. Lorist was prepared for this, however. Reidy and Shuss always stood guard when the cannons were deployed in battle. The Union tried their tactic several times, but stopped after a whole team was wiped out, including a blademaster and three gold ranks.

One raid, however, was both very successful and catastrophic at the same time. One team, a blademaster and three gold ranks, caught a camp unprotected. They wiped out the crews and destroyed the cannons, but then discovered the gunpowder kegs. They carried torches since the attack was performed at night.  As one of the gold ranks leaned over the open keg to look at the strange black powder inside, a spark fell from the torch into the barrel. None of the four were found thereafter. In fact, no one ever knew it was an attack that killed the brigade. Everyone thought some nitwit in the unit decided to have a smoke in the tent housing the gunpowder and blew everyone to kingdom come.

The Union didn't have unlimited elites. The Battle of Bluwek had already cost them half their number, and Mayflower's loss was salt in the wound. But Lorist only had forty cannons after the ten in the camp were destroyed.

Mayflower never launched another raid with their elites and the forts continued to fall. That all stopped, however, with Fort Linston, where sandbags were used on land for the first time.