Previously on Game of Chops:
Queenstone fends off the Phillisport attack. The Clansmen of the Rockies ambush the President’s Landing Guard. The Late Lord Jeter quietly wins battles.
Queenstone assets control of the War, but the contenders remain within a battle and a half.
He dreamt an old dream, of three knights in red cloaks, and a tower long fallen.
In his dream his friends rode with him, as they had in life. Proud Ronald Acuna; Faithful Ozzie Albies; Dansby Swanson, who had been Chipper’s squire; the crannogman, Kevin Gausman; Tyler Flowers on his great red stallion. Freddie had known their faces as well as he knew his own once, but the years leech at a man’s memories, even those he has vowed never to forget. In the dream they were only shadows, grey wraiths on horses made of mist.
They were seven, facing three. In the dream as it had been in life. Yet these were no ordinary three. They waited before the Ballpark, the red mountains of Cincinnati at their backs, their red cloaks blowing in the wind. And these were no shadows; their faces burned clear, even now. Ser Votto, the Sword of the Morning, had a sad smile on his lips. The hilt of the greatsword Dawn poked up over his right shoulder. Ser Oswell Suarez was on one knee, sharpening his blade with a whetstone. Across his red-enameled helm, the red legs of his House took a step. Between them stood fierce young Ser Gerold Puig, the Cuban Bull.
“I looked for you on the Ohio,” Freddie said to them.
“We were not there,” Ser Puig answered.
“Woe to Anthopolous if we had been,” said Ser Suarez.
“When President’’s Landing fell, Ser Bryce slew your king with a golden sword, and I wondered where you were.”
“Far away,” Ser Puig said, “or Krall would still hold the trophy, and the false National would be send back to the minors.
“I came down on the Bloody Gate to lift the siege,” Freddie told them, “and the Windblown and Brewers dipped their banners, and all their knights bent the knee to pledge us fealty. I was certain you would be among them.”
“Our knees do not bend easily,” said Ser Joey Votto.
“Ser Gennett is fled to Queenstone, with your queen and Prince Senzel. I thought you might have sailed with him.”
“Ser Gennett is a good man and true,” said Ser Suarez.
“But not a Red,” Ser Puig pointed out. “The Reds do not flee.”
“Then or now,” said Ser Votto. He donned his helm.
“We swore a vow,” explained old Ser Puig.
Freddie’s wraiths moved up beside him, with shadow swords in hand. They were seven against three.
“And now it begins,” said Ser Joey Votto, the Sword of the Morning. He unsheathed Dawn and held it with both hands. The blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light.
“No,” Freddie said with sadness in his voice. “Now it ends.” As they came together in a rush of steel and shadow…
The Knights of the Chop arrived at the banks of the Ohio, baking in the sun of the Red Mountains, and eager to build on the success in Clevelanhal. The Lord Hand chose Ser Gaus of the Mounds Guard to lead the defense.
Known throughout the Thirty Kingdoms for his raw and unpredictable strength, Ser Puig struck first for the Reds. Raised among the vicious Dodgeraki, the Cuban Bull had no inhibition. He charged straight through the Knight’s defensive lines. Thankfully, Ser Gaus rallied his men and minimized the damage.
This allowed an opportunity for the Knights’ vanguard to organize a coordinated attack. Ser Ozhaino was first through the breach, and Josh son of Donald, Ser Freddie, and Nick No One followed. For a moment it appeared the charge might win the battle, but in the end it was all for naught.
The Turncloack Peraza, who had fostered in the SunTrust Stronghold and squired for a Knight of the Chop, overwhelmed Ser Gaus’ defense and forced him to retreat. The Jester Biddle rushed to fill the gap, but in his drunken stupor, he allowed three Reds to pass with no fight.
Ser Dans and Ser Charlie the Clutch fought valiantly to turn the tide, but their efforts were not enough. The Knights of the Chop had fallen yet again from the blunders of the Second Strings.
Once the Knights had recovered and regrouped from their initial defeat, command was handed to Ser Soroka of the Mounds Guard. He had acquitted himself well in his first defense of the Suntrust Stronghold, fighting hard in an eventual loss.
He was aided by Ser Ozhaino, captain of the vanguard, who took put the enemy forces on their heels with an early charge, but the enemy was not silent for long. An early mistake by Ser Soroka let the dangerous Ser Votto slip through the Knights’ defenses unchallenged and even the battle.
For many bouts the two sides were at a stalemate. Ser Soroka and the enemy general showed deft command and strategy, each preventing the other side from causing any significant damage.
Finally, the reckless Cuban Bull, Ser Puig, let his hubris get the best of him. Lunging to stop the attacking Nick No One, Puig misjudged his target, and Nick slid by unharmed. This allowed Ser Acuna to turn the tide of the battle in one swift attack.
Meanwhile, the Second Strings picked up where Ser Soroka’s excellent defense left off, letting the Knights of the Chop secure a victory along the Ohio.
The deserts of the Red Mountains are known for being particularly harsh on opposing armies. Even stronger and more numerous forces can be neutralized when they cannot find their opponent. When under attack, the Red forces will hide in the caves of the mountains while the enemy suffers in the elements.
So went the final confrontation. Many times the Knights led early charges and seemed poised to land successful blows against the Red defenders, and many times they were unable to deal meaningful damage. The Red attackers struck at unexpected times from unexpected flanks, then retreated to safety.
Meanwhile, in the shadow of the Red Mountains, the Knights of the Chop were caught without cover as the skies opened up. The Knights slogged through the wet sand, unable to find their opponents. Only a catapult from Ser Freddie the Free Man prevented the failed invasion from turning into a complete rout.
Still stinging from a defeat at the hands of the Reds, the Knights return home to find their Stronghold overrun with the vengeful Mountain Clans. Since the Knights were victorious in the Rocky hills, the Clans have come together stronger than before and have been ravaging the Kingdoms of the West. Their defenses have strengthened and their warriors remain as fierce as ever.
Now, though, they are away from the thin air and mountainous terrain of their homeland, where their ambushes are most effective. Will the Knights be able to use their familiarity with the landscape to their advantage? Or will the campaign take another dark turn?