A Fantastical Council of War

The Lord Intelligencer was first on the schedule.  After the Crown Prince sat down and nodded to him, he rose and walked to the map on the wall.  He smoothed his blue robes and cleared his throat.

‘Highness, my Lords and Ladies, colleagues.  As you all are aware, our long term planning has been organized around defending against a large invasion from our neighbor to the north.  Multiple sources of information–divination, spies, and travelers—have confirmed that this long feared attack will begin soon. Based upon our understanding, the Cambion Morgan has raised a force consisting of: 10,000 goblin infantry, organized into three brigades; 5,000 human heavy infantry, organized into two brigades; a regiment of human, horse borne light cavalry; a siege train operated by approximately 20 giants with ogre assistants; at least three dragons of indeterminate type, and his militarized wizards—his previous efforts show that he will detail around 10 magic users to each of his infantry brigades.  These wizards will facilitate long range communications and coordination, as well as providing magical support in battle. Of note, he does not appear to have any heavy cavalry.’

‘There are two major routes that lead from Restula into our territory.  Due to the complications in maintaining cohesion and discipline in Morgan’s infantry, we believe that he will confine his forces to these routes—allowing them to travel dispersed over multiple routes would lead to high desertion rates.  They would need to concentrate at the two Markath River crossing sites, anyway: the fortified bridge at Rhyd Colwin and the ford at Beulatha. As a result, Morgan will have to provide a substantial logistics train, as well as prepositioned supplies along his route of march within his own borders.  Again, his discipline issues will force him to forego foraging parties and a dispersed approach.’

‘Based on these factors, as well as the terrain and the likely weather conditions, we predict a two pronged attack, using each major crossing site.  Our assessment of Morgan’s available courses of action leads to this predicted scheme of maneuver:

An approach march of approximately 15 days from his staging area to the Markath crossing sites.  The day before the main body approaches Rhyd Colwin, a surprise attack, likely enabled by magic and two dragons, in order to seize the bridge intact.  This will be Morgan’s initial main effort. He needs the bridge intact in order to maintain his logistics throughput. The giants manning…gianting?…his siege train will require a massive amount of food daily, and since that siege train is his key to attacking the capital, keeping the giants happy and in service is his key to victory.  The crossing at the ford is sufficient for humanoid infantry and light cavalry, especially goblinoid since they can go on lighter rations than humans.

Following the seizure of Rhyd Colwin, the main body will pass south as quickly as they can.  It will be another week’s march before they approach our capital. There, it will be situation dependent on whether they attempt a coup de main on the capital, or besiege it.  The most likely scenario is a rapid establishment of siege engine firing positions followed by an attempt to storm the main gate. If…when…that fails, they’ll settle in for siege.  They’ll continue to focus on the main gate, but will probe our defenses for an exploitable vulnerability. Morgan’s desired endstate is seizure of the capital, removal of our lawful government, and establishing his rule over our state, in addition to his territory to the north.  This has been one of his primary goals since our great grand sires’ day.’

The Crown Prince turned to his principle military advisor, Lord Goththorn.  ‘Since the key to Morgan’s attack centers around their giant supported siege train, it seems that the logistics efforts supporting those giants are a critical vulnerability for Morgan’s army.  If we can degrade or destroy Morgan’s ability to keep those giants fed and functional, we take away his key capability.’

Lord Goththorn smiled. ‘Glad to see you paid attention in those lessons I hammered into your head, Highness.  Once we finish the enemy situation, as well as predicted weather impacts, I’ll present our recommended courses of action, including actions we are taking to confirm the Lord Intelligencer’s predictions.’

The Crown Prince nodded.  ‘Continue, please.’

The Intelligencer again took up the thread of his narrative.  ‘The forces that cross at Beulatha will continue south, and either reinforce the main effort, or establish blocking positions to keep us from either reinforcing the capital or attacking the besieging force.  I’d judge this later course of action most likely, but when we brief our collection activities we’ll address that. The Crown weather wizards predict a wet spring, followed by a dry summer. Since so much of what we believe Morgan’s most likely actions revolves around successfully seizing and holding river crossing sites, we assess that he will most likely initiate his movement south at midsummer.  That’s a risk for him, because it increases his demands for water on his trains, but increases his likelihood of successfully crossing the river. If he besieges our capital, he’ll also be settling into place as the fall rains start. That will impact his morale as well as mortality from disease in his ranks. Of course, it follows we’ll be besieged and vulnerable to potential food shortages, heating fuel shortages, and the resultant vulnerability to disease outbreaks.

‘Highness, you’ll notice that I did not brief an enemy reserve force.  Based on 200 years of fighting Morgan, we have an excellent understanding of his behavior.  He’ll maintain a bodyguard force, which will include the three dragons when they are not needed for seizing the bridge or participating in the coup de main on the capital.  He’ll also keep a force of wizards and personal clerics with him, primarily for personal protection . If…and he likely will…move south with his army, he’ll move behind the main force, perhaps on a parallel route that won’t be despoiled by several infantry brigades marching with poor field sanitation facilities.’

The Crown Prince pursed his lips.  ‘Will he be vulnerable? Could we execute some variety of decapitation strike?’

Goththorn glanced at the younger man.  ‘Sire, we could, but I doubt it would be successful.  He is personally powerful. Even after all these years, we are unsure exactly what his personal limits are.  He’ll have a minimum of one dragon on site or within a very short distance, plus his personal guard, his wizards and sorcerers, and priests both in his service and in the service of his father.  We can form a contingency plan, but my professional judgement is that any effort would likely fail and waste combat and magic power that we could put to better use elsewhere.’

‘Old friend, what’s to prevent Morgan from exercising that personal power as a part of his attack?  To serve as a decisive force at a decisive point?’

‘It’s not in his pattern of behavior.  When attacked, he’ll defend himself, but he doesn’t want to dirty his hands with actually fighting.  He views himself as a mastermind, a mover of chess pieces. Even following his forces to maintain command and control is out of character, but we currently assess that he has no deputy that he trusts or relies on enough to actually execute his will since the death ten years ago of his daughter, Louhi the Vampire.  Hence his desire to oversee the invasion—as a commander, not a combatant.’

The Crown Prince nodded.  ‘The assessment makes sense, but his location and personal intentions to intervene in the fight are my number one intelligence requirement.’

‘Understood.  Highness, allow me to continue with the operations portion of the briefing.’  As the Crown Prince smiled and nodded, Lord Goththorn continued: ‘Our defense will be based on a defense in depth along the assessed main effort maneuver corridor.  As you noted, we assessed Morgan’s critical vulnerability as his logistics capability, particularly for the giants. Our first major intelligence requirement is to identify those assets.  We can then target them for destruction. Hungry, mad giants are going to be a bigger threat to Morgan’s army than they are to us, and will eliminate or greatly reduce the capabilities of his siege train.  Since that capability is key to his effort to conquer our country, eliminating or degrading it may cause him to abandon the campaign. The loss of prestige and influence resulting from that failure will diminish his ability to recruit and raise future armies.  It ties neatly to your father’s policy of maintaining national sovereignty and preventing Morgan from overthrowing the lawful government. I mentioned that we would defend in depth—by attacking Morgan’s formations along their depth, we can desyrchonize his efforts, slow him down, and whittle down his combat power.  If we can’t get him to abandon his attack before he attempts to cross the river, we intend to have degraded his forces to the point—both through casualties and through delays causing him to use his supplies, that he will lack the combat power to seize the fortified bridge. We believe he has to have that bridge—otherwise, he will not be able to supply his troops within our borders.’

The Crown Prince nodded slowly.  ‘Yes, but we’ll need to screen other potential fording sites and locations where he could bridge, either via sappers or magic.  Prioritize sites close to our road networks—he wouldn’t want to waste time having to build or magic up roads.’

Goththorn nodded.  ‘Correct, Highness.  We’ll review our collection plan to ensure those sites are covered for observation, either by lancers or by rangers.  Speaking of which, Colonel the Duke Falstaff of will be briefing the scouting and reconnaissance plan.’

A tall, lean man in his early middle age stood up and moved to the map.  His brown and green clothing notably more practical than the more formal uniforms

The Crown Prince, nodded. ‘Hello, Falstaff.  How is the Duchess and the Ducklings?’

‘They’re doing fine, Highness.  Hal starts at the Academy in the fall.  He’s got my build, but his mom’s looks, thank the Gods.’

‘Well, hopefully he won’t get into nearly as much trouble as we did when we were there.  I really thought my father was going to kick us both out.’

‘And now look at us.  Guess we didn’t turn out completely rotten.’

‘Just mostly.  Let’s finish this up, so we can get a drink and catch up.’

‘Of course, Highness.  Our current ground reconnaissance assets include the three Forester companies and two regiments of lancers.  Aerial reconnaissance is limited, but we have requested assistance from the Kingdom of Selene, in the form of Hippogriff aerial cavalry.  We have a handshake agreement for enough assets to conduct two recce sorties per day. Recce targets will be Morgan’s high value assets.

‘Our intention is to use two companies of Foresters in their long range reconnaissance role, setting up observation positions along the maneuver corridors to identify key enemy assets and confirm/deny enemy courses of  action. We’ll give the platoon leaders discretion regarding attacking topics of opportunity, but their primary mission is information gathering. Primary reporting mechanism will be sympathetic wax tablets. Linked tablets will be in the House of Information, where reported information will be provided to House Analysts.  The teams will receive update collection taskings via tablet from the Manager of Collections. Teams are conducting rehearsals for this mission in the Grim Forest now; we intend to have them begin their infiltration in time to establish their observation positions before Morgan needs to split his forces along his route of march.  These teams will confirm the maneuver corridor that Morgan’s main effort takes and seek to maintain contact with Morgan’s forces. The third company of Foresters will be held in reserve to attack high value targets. Mission approval will be maintained by Lord Goththorn.

‘1st Lancers will screen our deployment into Morgan’s territory, conduct reconnaissance, counter reconnaissance, and gain and maintain contact with Morgan’s forces.  We need to work out the details regarding reconnaissance handover between the Foresters and the Lancers—this is complicated by communications challenges.  

‘The 2nd Lancers will establish Observation Posts and conduct patrols along the river.  We had already taken into account your observation regarding other crossing sites, but we will review the plan.  

‘If Morgan’s forces manage to cross the ford at Beulatha, our screening forces will pull back, maintaining contact while retaining freedom of maneuver.  Their role at that stage will be to confirm that column’s course of action—whether it takes up blocking positions, reinforces the forces intended to attack our capital, or takes a third action—for example, serving as an expendable raiding force, designed to disrupt our response to the main effort.’

‘Reconnaissance locations have been identified and will be included in the tasking order.  Questions, Highness?’

The Crown Prince shook his head.  ‘That seems comprehensive. Let’s pause here; I need to let His Majesty know the situation and gain his approval for these initial concepts.  Then my old roommate and I need to have a drink together. Let’s reconvene tomorrow morning.’

The members of the High Council and the military officers present rose as the Crown Prince pushed his chair back.  They had accomplished much. The hard work of planning was barely begun, though.

About the Author: The XO of XOs is a long serving, long suffering Army Reserve lieutenant colonel and career civil servant.  He’s been Infantry, Military Intelligence, and Military Police (a long time ago).  He’s been doing this longer than you’ve been alive.  His opinions on Y-Wings can be found at @XOofXOs on Twitter.

Cover Photo: War Council Room

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