Aldebrand's worst fears are proven correct when the Dark Elven armies suddenly turn to the west and assemble to attack Krudenwald. Only the winter weather and the dark forests of the Drakenwald prevent all the Dark Elven armies massing for an overwhelming attack. The first Dark Elven army to be faced by Hochland in centuries and Count Aldebrand must win.
Harold Ludenhof has not been the governor of Krudenwald for long. His garrison is almost entirely new unblooded recruits who were only recently trained and were intended more to fill the empty garrison quarters and use the citizens quota to ease the burden on the central Hochland treasury.
With a single cannon at his disposal Harold decides to make it the center of his defense and hope Aldebrand can ride in relief before the main assault arrives.
The Dark Elves lose valuable times breaking down the city gates and a small volunteers company of crossbow men hold the walls above the gate and manage to dump some boiling oil onto the attackers before being forced to flee for their lives. Most of the company is captured but successfully delay the Dark Elves for valuable minutes while also causing considerable casualties. A company mercenaries bowmen rain arrows down onto the attacks and draw off 2 companies of Dark Elves in a long pursuit along the top of Krudenwald's city walls. By the time the first of the attackers comes in range of the inner defenses Harold has prepared the Dark Elves have already lost 15% of their force.
Apparently one of the Dark Elven companies sent in pursuit of the bowmen atop the walls was the Elven commanders personal guard. A company of Halberdiers that arrived with Aldebrand was sent to block off a side streets and runs straight into the advancing Dark Elves... in the first moments of the exchange the Dark Elven commander is slain by a lucky blow from one of the Halberdiers. The rest of the Halberdier company is not so lucky and only 9 survive to rush back to Aldebrand with the news that 2 companies of Dark Elves are advancing on the flank. Aldebrand has several Encarmine Knight companies that arrived as the personal guard of the neighboring governors at his disposal and the threat is neutralized. With their commander dead and Encarmine Knights prowling the side streets the Dark Elves are slowly pushed back.
Finally the remaining Dark Elves break and make a run for it... the battle is won. The fate of Krudenwald yet remain in the balance with numerous Dark Elven armies nearby.
Harold survives the battle and proudly reports on his defense to Aldebrand. It was slightly unconventional but given Harold's limited resources about the best that could be done.
The following week Aldebrand leaves Krudenwald with some of his army and marches to meet another Dark Elven army that has moved deeper into Hochland. He gathers reinforcements just prior to launching an attack on the Dark Elves.
The only advantage that Aldebrand has is the Encarmine Knights, Aldebrand ruthlessly presses this advantage in defense of Hochland.
The battle is won despite a swirling snowstorm and that most of Aldebrand's men were fresh recruits. The Encarmine Knights are beginning to banish the idea that their brash attitudes are undeserved with battles such as this.
The Dark Elven invasion and the first battle of Krudenwald's outcome is conveyed by magical means to Lothar Valgeir who sits in Erengrad near the site of the Dark Elves most secure port. Lothar does not know if his actions can make a difference but he has an army and their are Dark Elves camped not far away...
The battle almost immediately does not go to plan when some of the Dark Elves artillery score a direct hit on the Panther Knights accompanying Lothar. However from that point on the Dark Elves have little luck left.
The heavy cavalry roam the field at will and despite being unable to fully crush the Dark Elves in a grand charge, the constant attacks keep the Dark Elves disorganized while a constant barrage of missile fire form the position of the Hochlander infantry whittle down the Dark Elven numbers until finally the heavy cavalry can make decisive charges.
Two companies of Dark Elves refuse to flee and Ogre mercenaries meet them in a brutal battle as the Hochland artillery crews flee from their guns when the battle spreads...
Lothar manages to win the battle and keep the majority of his army alive.
The Panther Knights after suffering the attack by the Dark Elven artillery make their presence known and first silence that artillery and then rout nearly 1/4 of the Dark Elven army.
Aldebrand had returned to camp outside Krudenwald but had been forced to leave his mortars and some of his men behind when his pace proved to great for them to match. Aldebrand was not sure if the Dark Elves would attack again but figured it was prudent to wait outside once again. Recruiting in all the surrounding cities was going as fast as possible while some building construction had been halted to allow a diversion of funds to the defense of Hochland from the invasion.
An attack does come... apparently an army of Dark Elves had snuck up to the very walls of Krudenwald covered by magic...
Harold has slightly more men at his command this time around but still is greatly outnumbered until Aldebrand can arrive from his camp outside the walls. Harold does not change his tactics for this battle other than to order more room be given to allow his cannons a better field of fire...
Aldebrand is preoccupied with thoughts of where the other Dark Elven armies have gone and nearly gets killed when he runs right into the Dark Elven commanders bodyguard, these veteran warriors wielding massive halberds and wearing enchanted armor force Aldebrand to flee while losing the majority of his personal guard. The rest of the Encarmine Knights have more success and numerous companies of Dark Elves are run down in the streets as they attempt to surround the central square.
In fact with more familiarity with the terrain due to the previous battles this time the Encarmine Knights manage to completely eliminate all opposition outside of the central square. The very barricades made to keep out the Dark Elven cavalry now force the Knights to halt.
The Dark Elf commander is nearly the last to die... his only bodyguard is brought down moments later but the majority of his army is already dead. Trapped between Hochlander halberds and Encarmine swords...
The battle is costly and the Dark Elves are not warriors to take lightly. In close quarters combat they are superior to anything Aldebrand has seen aside from vampire Blood Knights and Chaos warriors. However they can still die when exposed to superior tactics.
Harold's 2nd attempt with his great cannon battery proves much more successful. With several volleys of grapeshot scoring over 300 kills while the 2nd volley of regular shot killed half of the Dark Elven sorcerers in the opening moments of the main attack.
With 3 defeats in rapid succession the Dark Elves turn back toward the sea. Lothar's actions putting Salkalten under threat might have had some effect afterall. Or perhaps Aldebrand simply surprised the Dark Elves with the ferocity of his defense. Either way Aldebrand is relieved. If the Dark Elves had pressed to the attack 2 or 3 more times they might have won through and then the majority of Hochland would have lain nearly undefended and open to conquest.
Meanwhile diplomats have made contact with the Dwarves and handed over the keys to Zhufbar's city gates... the Dwarves are grateful for the gift and Aldebrand hopes they manage to hold onto the stronghold better than did Stirland which lost the former Dwarven hold given over just a few months go to an incursion of Chaos Dwarves.
Ulrich Engel has marched hard and when spies report low garrisoned Orc stronghold which they had stolen from the Dwarves in years past Ulrich detours from his march and lays siege. He leaves it to his captains to conduct the attack as he confers by magical amulet with Aldebrand on the status of the Dark Elf invasion and what Aldebrand wishes his army to do should the Crusade be completed before Ulrich arrives...
The Orcs are sent fleeing from the hold and Ulrich hands it over to the Dwarves as Hochland is far from this remote area and can not keep the hold guarded even if Aldebrand had desired.
Aldebrand is not satisfied to see the Dark Elves turn and leave... they must be sent fleeing and remember the peril of attacking Hochland for centuries! Aldebrand pursues the Dark Elves into the Middle Mountains nearly to the gates of the Brass Keep itself which the Dark Elves detour around, finally Aldebrand catches the Dark Elves just as they are set to ambush a detachment of Middlelanders.
The Middlelanders had been part of the Brass Keep garrison but recalled when the Dark Elves swept through the Middelands... however with the threat appearing to recede they are marching back to Brass Keep unaware that one of the retreating Dark Elven armies is nearby.
The ambush is sudden and brutal. Aldebrand watches from the heights as his army tries to descend into the valley. The Middlelanders put up a good fight but are soon overrun.
Panther Knights make a mad charge down the steep slope and are met by Cold Knights riding their vicious reptiles...
The Dark Elves know they must win this battle or be hunted down through the Middle Mountains and charge up the hill to meet the descending Hochlander army. The Pistoliers make good use of the heights but in order to fire they are exposed to the Dark Elven artillery firing from the valley floor.
One of the Dark Elven commanders is slain by the last company of Middelanders still fighting but the other Dark Elven commander smoothly takes command and the battle barely slows.
The Dark Elves bravely press the attack and in fact have some success. The difficult terrain makes employing the Empire's heavy cavalry harder than normal.
The cavalry finally breaks through onto the valley floor and while some ride to silence the Dark Elven artillery the Panther Knights ride to save what remains of the Middlelanders.
The battle is finally won and while the cost in overall numbers is low, Aldebrand would almost prefer a higher number if less of his previous heavy cavalry had been lost. The cavalry is the most decisive force on the battle field in most battles but difficult to replace.
The terrain and the tenacity of the Dark Elves inflicted high losses amongst the heavy cavalry in this battle.