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|Siege of the North|
Blood and Swamps
December 6, 2012
Chapter 5: Siege of the North
Looking out across the divide was a land of dissidents and rebels. He shouldn't be surprised, these people built weapons for the Fire Nation during the Hundred Year War. They had built the very weapons that made the Fire Nation's technological might able to overcome anything.
The Mechanist made the first airships, the massive drill that attacked Ba Sing Se and the tanks that were used across the world. These horrendous weapons made the strategic war a victory.
But this time, they would suffer the consequences of their treason. And now they would suffer it with their own weapons.
It had been some time since Earth King Iruei had visited the Northern Fortress, but he always hated it. It was a site of dissidents. Technically, the land belonged to the Air Nomads, who were extinct when the mechanist and his people moved in. When threatened, they sold their services to the Fire Nation and designed some of the worst weapons used in the war.
Iruei would now punish these impudent fools. So long had they not answered to authority, they thought they were above it. But in part, that was his ancestor's fault as well. Earth King Kuei was weak and pathetic, and Iruei was ashamed to call him an ancestor. At least Kuei's son killed the weakling before taking the throne.
The Earth Kings have since spent the last centuries rebuilding their empire and consolidating their power again. But Iruei had reached the true resistance. It was not powers within the city; they fell when he and Kuir cleansed the bureaucracy in a small war called the Fortnight Slaughter.
It was locations beyond Ba Sing Se. Places that had not answered to the Earth King in so long they had forgotten there was one. The worst were Omashu and the Northern Fortress.
The King of Omashu, Urri, had wanted to be autonomous and was stupid enough to tell that to Iruei when the Earth King was Crown-Prince. He knew that eventually he would have to kill the old man. He spat on the very order that gave him control of the city. But as King, he would choose when it happened. And it was fitting that 'King' Urri suffered at the hands of 'Prince' Kuir.
But his son was dealing with that war. He had to worry about one closer to Ba Sing Se. The Northern Fortress was lined with technology. The Mechanists were industrious and reclusive. Selling their new inventions to Republic City before fleeing back to their mountain. It was worse that the siege was broken after the Solar Eclipse as an army of United Forces and White Lotus troops broke the Fire Nation army holding the pass and then ran the siege and routed it.
That was why Iruei was here to personally oversee the invasion. The Northern Fortress now had thrice the armies it had before, a straight line of supplies from the North Pole and a massive superiority in technology over the Earth Kingdom forces attacking.
An officer approached the man and bowed, "My lord?"
"The reinforcements have arrived, your liege."
"Good, debrief and deploy them."
"As you will, your liege."
He looked to a general to his right. A trustworthy and loyal man. He would never betray the Earth King but would still speak his mind. "General Taro, what would you recommend to restart this siege."
Taro weighed the answer, "We have many problems to deal with, but key among them is resources. So long as they have fresh supplies and men from the North Pole, they will never give up."
"Hmmm. Supplies from the North will be hard to cut, they will put everything into defending it."
"And then reinstate the siege."
Breaking the Lifeline
Iruei looked over the valley north of the Fortress. Despite the dark night it was lit up from lights and a train going to a port further north. It was one of three trains in the region. Another went south to Republic City and one east to Ba Sing Se. Both had been cut off but the Fortress was able to secure the northern trail and its port.
So sure of its security, there was no light discipline here, just men walking and patrolling while bright lights covered itself. So bright it was hard for them to see out into the shadows of the mountains that ruled the valley. He smiled within his helm.
He turned to his men and waved his arm, signaling the attack. Foregoing caution, he jumped and slid down the mountainside faster than possible. Using earthbending he propelled himself forward. The earth quaked at his power and could be felt across the valley. The men at the train station turned suspiciously, and horror took them.
He led made a final push, commanding the earth to catapult him forward. The men could barely see their nightmare before but as if flew through the air, they were beyond scared.
A massive metal frame nine feet tall and four feet wide came at them in the vague shape of a man but far more intimidating. In one hand was a broad shield of the same steel alloy. In the right hand was a cruel and wicked spiked mace as large as a man.
The massive monster came down like a comet, crushing the two men beneath it. It landed to the crush of metal as the station platform buckled under the pressure of the landing. The massive armor stood up and walked out of the hole and to a dumbstruck man.
Iruei swung the mace down to the sickening crunch of bone as there was nothing left of what he hit. Someone finally gathered courage and fired a chunk of earth at him. But the small piece rolled off the alloyed armor like a coin thrown at a wall.
He ran forward, willing the heavy suit to move like a man. He swung wide, hitting one man dead on and catching a spike onto another. As he continued screams ensued as the horror of facing the metal monster spread hysteria.
It was a long time before the rest of the army arrived at the back of their King, but the defenders weren't ready, they were already fleeing the inhuman machine before them by the time metalbenders of the Royal Guard began attacking and were outright in retreat when the rest of the full attack force took the station and followed through.
The station had no train at the moment. Iruei jumped down onto the track and grabbed the rail. He concentrated on the rail, sweating at the exertion. The rail crunched and buckled, turned in odd and unnatural angles. He made a final pull, ridging the rail up. On cue, the whistle of a speeding train came. Iruei leapt out of the way and watched.
The train saw the attack and instead of slowing down sped up to avoid being boarded, they didn't notice the destroyed rails ahead. When metal met metal in a collision where one caved to another, a scene of steel and fire ensued as destruction went forward.
The carts tumbled over each other stacking and colliding, then rolling further, the station was soon destroyed as cart over cart ravaged the way. Explosions ensued from both fuel and weapons, creating even more destruction than before.
Alarms could be heard down through the valley coming from both the port and the Fortress. A colonel arrived as the troops came back in once the rampage of the train ended, "My lord, your orders?"
"Take this wreckage and rig it with explosives. We'll then strike again when they come in."
"Yes, your grace."
The Next Phase
The successive strikes had done their job. The Northern Fortress needed to keep the line between them and the North Pole open, a destroyed railway could not be allowed. In clockwork, they sent men to protect their holdings. That many less men to protect the Temple itself.
By giving them a fight in the north, the Temple assumed hopes of a siege had been abandoned. But Iruei had other plans. He prepared a force for an attack style that used to remain out of the Earth Kingdom's reach.
"Commander, are we ready?"
"Send in the fleet."
The Earth Kingdom fleet wasn't advanced in comparison to the Fire Nation or the United Republic but it was still large and formidable. And with the focus on the railroad north, an airstrike was the best way to cover a march. And better yet, the spring weather still bore clouds, enough to hide the airships till they were on top of the Temple.
The ships received the order and hastened forward using the clouds to conceal their charge. With them went their dogfighters and high-speed bombers. The one advantage here was these metal alloy airplanes were tougher than most, being able to take that much more from the enemy.
The temple must have heard the planes and frantically began using their anti-plane defenses. They were shocked to find airships among the emerging attack from the clouds. From his command center looking on with his binoculars he saw the enemy prepare their larger, more powerful anti-air guns. But they were too late, the Earth Fleet opened its first salvo as bombs carpeted the outer walls of the high-elevated temple. Flames and shrapnel coated the periphery, obstructing Iruei's view, but he knew the next stage.
The airplane bombers moved, descending from the clouds high above. They dove and fired. These bombs were less powerful than airship armament but was much more accurate and was easily able to hit critical munitions supplies near the artillery emplacements.
Explosions continued as more planes descended on the madness, releasing their weapons on the unsuspecting temple. He looked down the mountain to the plain. An army waited there but was in shock. These were the reinforcements that broke through a Fire Nation army on the Day of Black Sun. Rather than vainly try and free Republic City, they made for the Northern Fortress where the unsuspecting siege was lifted when hit by defenders and their reinforcements.
They had remained on the field to keep the siege from starting again and with artillery from the temple, any army to march on them was doomed. But today was on their side. With forces focused north, they were vulnerable in the temple itself. The air strike damaged too much for the Mechanists to hold it all.
The army on the field would have to choose, stay and fight without the support of artillery, which would mean slaughter, or flee to the temple to reinforce it, which would restart the siege and enclose the temple again.
It was win-win for Iruei. Either had its advantage. Should the army stay on the field, the defense of the temple itself afterward would be easy to break. Should they flee up the mountain, the siege would begin and the lack of resources would overtake them.
"Begin the assault, General Taro. Lets see if they are holding the field or fleeing."
"I'll be joining shortly."
The large vehicle rolled forward. It was slow by today's standard but could hold many tons of weight, something most couldn't boast. Iruei stood there in his full armor, resting within until it was time to fight.
A whistle of air came from above. A driver yelled, "Everyone out now!"
No one hesitated, every one ran from the vehicle as Iruei leapt off. Seconds after the last driver got a few feet away a pointed shell of metal hit the center of the tanker truck. On contact it burst into flame and imploded from the force.
A colonel of the Royal Guard yelled at the surveillance liaison, "I thought you said they cleared the artillery!?"
The liaison got up defiantly, "They did!" He dusted off his uniform, "There must have been a few protected ones they're using for accurate hits." The two began arguing as the colonel concerned himself with the safety of the King.
Rather than let them bicker, he took command, "Alright, forward men. We won't let some mountaintop traitors say they scared the Earth King and his Royal Guards."
The men braced themselves and pressed forward as another whistle could be heard in the distance. It was far off from them but could seen as flames expanded on the field ahead. Indeed, the whistles and explosions of artillery were sparse in comparison to average fire from this defense.
Iruei looked up briefly as he and his men marched forward, the cloudy skies were alight with explosions as the remaining defenders atop tried to repel the airstrike. Iruei returned his focus to the task at hand, walking.
Using such a massive suit was at first called ridiculous by his father when he was just a prince. He claimed the effort alone to move would exhaust the metalbender and make him useless except to stand and take hits for a squad. Iruei spent years until he was finally to use full motion of the suit he had made, and even longer before he could fight in it. But at last, he had mastered it in the last year before he became Earth King.
It did limit his bending beyond his suit as most of his effort focused on the suit, but he was not powerless. Most mistakenly assumed he was a non-bender in a mechanical suit of some sort. Any bending from him was a secret weapon.
He reached the battle and saw the fate of the field. The army must have been caught unawares, for they were pushed further back than they should have been. They were still fighting, but only a portion, they had decided on a retreat in which they covered themselves in tiers as opposed to outright fleeing which would have led to the death of any who fell behind.
Smart and admirable of the troops but futile, they were giving up the field and letting the siege return. Iruei and his Guard joined the battle, he struck down with his mace, making a huge crater where a pair of men had been standing before.
The men attacking were revitalized as their King joined them. Men were crushed and broken before his rampage. A few brave souls tried to get around to find a blind spot but the Royal Guard were steadfast and at his back.
But Iruei heard something and his mind processed the silence and static as a spinning disc flew his way. There was no dodging or blocking, the shooter had timed it perfectly. The disc collided with his body and cables expanded, tying around the chest-plate of his armor.
"AAaaarrrrrgggghhhh!!!" Before he could move, tremors shook through his body tensing him. The device emitted a powerful electric charge, further conducted by his metal armor and shocking his entire body. He collapsed to his knees, hands barely holding his massive frame up.
The intense shock nearly overcame him when he let his rage and pain take over. Iruei had learned long ago that pain could make a body overcome much. Rage fueled and power increased from the body. He stood up slowly as the enemy looked on fearfully, they must have wondered what could stop this thing.
He grabbed his shield with one hand while the other yanked off the electrical cable. He swung his shield hitting more people than he would his mace but less lethally. The men fell over as the force of the metal against them. Defenseless and on the floor they were quickly overtaken.
The army was pressed back up the mountain where they hid in the temple. With their retreat and the lack of sufficient artillery, the siege began. The air strikes were eventually repelled as the north pass troops made for their fortress. And there too the Earth Kingdom met success, the men trying to rebuild and secure the pass immediately sped for the Temple to defend it and that meant fighting the valleys that moved to oppose them.
A contingent of his royal guard led the attack at the narrows of the valley. Too concerned with the temple, the enemy pressed through the attack but suffered grievously before they even joined the battle at the temple.
Taro stood at the base of a small hill that became the forward command of the reinstated siege. With enemy artillery all but destroyed, they were able to put back defensive emplacements so as to prevent new artillery strikes.
New calls from scouts reporting that the siege effort was successful. The enemy had been pushed back on all fronts, the only exception was the North Pass to the port for the North Pole was still in enemy control, but without a repaired railroad, the transportation of supplies was significantly reduced.
He was now waiting for two more scouts, one up north and east of the North Port and another south, in the empty lands between here and Republic City. While sparse, it had several points where one could access the railroad between the great city and the Northern Fortress.
At the time, his concern was north, his scout there was in dangerous territory monitoring the activity of North Port. If anyone spotted him, it would mean his death, he had no reinforcements or anywhere to run to.
A captain approached, "General Taro, we have news from a scout."
"Our scout in the south run has reported an empty supply train that has a passenger list."
Taro turned his head at that. Supply trains generally had no one but to drivers for shifts.
Iruei sat down as a doctor tended to his wounds. The electrical shock had burned spots where his armor pressed tightly against his skin. "You need to stay off your feet for the next two months, your liege. And at least a month if conflicts come. Think you can do that, my lord?"
He sighed, "I figured as much. My next recommendations is a waterbender that is an expert healer and these." He pulled out a capsule and presented it to Iruei, "It has a month's worth of painkillers so that you can function normally but don't overexert yourself. On these, you won't be able to feel your limits like you normally would."
"Very well doctor, is there anything else?"
He spoke humorously while looking at a clipboard, "Just stay off your feet, your highness."
Iruei pulled up his robe and was tying it as General Taro came in, "Ah, General, what have you to report from the scouts? Good news?"
Taro bowed and then responded, "The scouts are reporting good tidings. Only one by North Port has not reached us. But its a contact from our scout in the South Pass that should interest you." He handed the king the report.
Iruei read it over mechanically, taking in every detail. He looked to Taro, almost unbelievingly, "Seriously? They're heading up here by the train? Those were the first things we took when the attack began. Why on earth would they try that way."
"Exhaustion, clumsiness, ignorance. I'm not sure, but we have an opportunity."
"Indeed, my Royal Guard shall take care of this."
"Your highness, I would recommend that the Dust Dragons join them, they are in the region and can quickly join us."
"And why is that?"
"It is an advantage to have both the Dust Dragons and the Royals. They'll be unstoppable."
Iruei grunted, "Very well, contact Grand Marshal Toz and make your request for him to dispatch the Dust Dragons to the South Pass."
"Thank you, my lord." He bowed as he stepped back to leave the tent.
Iruei spoke again before Taro left, "Taro, I want them alive."
"Yes, your highness."
- Iruei's massive armor weighs in a ton for the density.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
Storms of the Future Cycle
|The Journey of Tala|
|Book 1 - Sand and Steel|
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|Book 2 - Blood and Swamps|
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|Book 3 - Pyres and Storms|
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|Fates and Vows|
|- - - - - - Ilera - Solace Fade - Scions - Sovereign|
|The Rise of Lirin|
|- In the Morrow - The White Dragon - Faith in Blood - The Great Gates - Lord Avatar - A Red Sun - Faceless - Faction - Tempest - Rally of Crows - Rally of Eagles - Dragons and Serpents - Kings and Men - Storms of a Spirit - Princes - A Battered Land - Seas of Ichor - Arbiter - Return to a Grave - Declination - Disaffection - Epilogue|
|Myths of the Empire|
|Pacification - Assassins - Empire - Red Sun Under The Empire - White Snow - Heirs|
|The Reclamation of Arein|
|Book 1 - Chaos|
|Refugee - Rogue - Ghosts - Dark Roses - Doyen - Divulgence - The Plan - Abscond - Mists of Illusion - Madonna - Syndicate - Playing the Stakes - Purge - Brothers|
|Book 2 - War|
|Alliance - Temple - Tensions - The Fall - Hunters and Prey - Lussuria - Shades of Relevance - Broken Star - Defiler - Strikeforce - Secrets of the Lair - Eminence - Swarm - Wanderer|
|Dreams of Melasa|
|Book 1 - Servant|
| - - - - - - - - - - - - -
|Book 2 - Shadow World|
|Faint but Clear - Ghost in the Steel - Kurotama - Loyalties - Servants of Shadow - Game of Fate - Shadows and Reflections - Tomb of Blood - Broken Blades - Hill of Shadow - Souls and Swords - Home|