The Kotar Plain stretches from the Amir Mountains in the north to the Darunch Mountains (pronounced da-roonch) in the south. Both mountain ranges run from the coast to the Burran Mountains in the west. Both the Darunch and Amir Mountains are slightly curved with a southern bulge in the centre. All the ranges have heavy forests at their bases with tropical jungle covering the top third of them. They all have steep slopes and sheer cliffs abound.
Historically, two tribes fought over control of the Kotar Plain for centuries. Such good grain growing lands are rare as the mountainous tropical forests are the norm. The Amira, originally a sub-tribe of the Amiri, had settled the northern half of the plain by spreading out from the Amir Mountains. The Darunchi (pronounced da-roonchee) who settled the Darunch Mountains didn't settle the plain at all, but lived only in the mountains. Eventually the Amira crossed the river and spread out across the southern half of the plain. They lived on the plain for several generations before coming into contact with the Darunchi.
This happened when the Amira moved into the southern mountains seeking the good hardwood trees growing there. After centuries of fighting between the two tribes the Darunchi withdraw from the north side of the Darunch Mountains and cede it to the Amira. Eventually kingdoms came into being and the Darunchi aligned with the Dareed tribes and king while the Amira aligned with the Ber and Amiri tribes under the Ber King. Over the years the summit line of the Darunch Mountains became the natural border between the kingdoms of Dareed and Berant. For a few centuries the kingdoms fought over control of the plain, but the plain stayed part of Berant. The geography favours the Amira and Amiri in fielding armies to the plain.
Things settled down in the late sixteenth century. Then simple roads through the mountains were made to connect to the roads and bridges across the plain, bringing prosperity and peace to all on both sides of the mountains. No strife between them for centuries. The plain knew civil war during the rebellion, and peace returned with King Edward.
In 1970 the peace is broken again.
Marley's Landing is a quiet town of five thousand souls. Built on the Kotar River where a section of the plain had collapsed and made a slope down to the river. The Kotar Plain is good grain and cattle country. Surrounded by mountains on three sides and high cliffs falling to the sea on the fourth side, it's well protected. The Kotar River flows from the Burran Mountains in the west to the east coast, and it splits the Kotar Plain almost in half. The one hundred metre drop from the plain to the river makes it difficult to access the plain from the river, except at the slope of Marley's Landing. The town grew up around a trading centre at the top of the slope. Ships brought settlers and goods in while taking produce out. During the eighteenth century three bridges were built across the river, the largest and most used is at Marley's Landing because it's almost in the centre of the plain and at the main trading post. During the nineteenth century very good roads were built over the mountains and connected the plains to the areas beyond. All prosper while trade moves along the roads crossing the plains. In the mid-twentieth century river boats are now used for tourists and bulk loads with most of it being the grain from the farms' fields of the plains.
U MAMA are arming Dareed with many millions of dollars" worth of modern weapons, and also provide the Dareed King with five thousand mercenaries to spearhead his army in a campaign to conquer Berant. For their help they'll get control of the Amir Mountains and its diamond mine, which the King of Dareed doesn't know about.
In April 1970 the King of Dareed masses an army of fifty-five thousand troops at his northern border, ready to invade Berant. They plan to cross the mountains at all three passes and rush across the plains with armoured vehicles and troop transports, they'll sweep all before them and crush any resistance. Three very fast columns will drive down the roads and capture the bridges. The heaviest force is taking the shortest route through Marley's Landing and is headed by the U MAMA mercenaries. Once across the river they'll spread out and sweep across the plains to the Amir Mountains, through the mountains, into central Berant, and the capital city of Berana.
The success of the plan hinges on capturing and crossing the bridges across the Kotar River before Berant can muster sufficient force to stop them. The Berant military consists of fourteen thousand Royal Guards and forty thousand Army troops (each Berant force has its own command structure and communications system). The planners think they can easily defeat them in open battle, because they'll not have an opportunity to gather as a single force. Also, U MAMA agents will interfere with the Berant Army communications system and fragment their response further. The only real concern is the Royal Guards, a fiercely loyal and well-trained group of soldiers with a big reputation for doing the impossible. However, the Dareed King and his latest advisers think the weight of numbers will defeat them with ease.
Colonel Gerald 'Granite' Mannheim, Officer Commanding the 3rd Claymore Regiment, is breathing hard and reaching for a hand hold while he thinks, This is it, next hold is the top and I can take a rest to enjoy the sunrise. Then a nice descent and another night climbing exercise is over. Looking up he sees, in the breaking dawn, the shape of one of his men above him looking down. He's soon on the flat and rolling from the edge. Standing up he looks at a young Sword while he thinks, I'm getting too old for this mountain climbing lark. Why did I ever volunteer to command a regiment of mountain climbing specialists? No wonder the others call us 'rock huggers, ' because you have to hug the rocks to stay alive. I'd much rather be at home hugging Liz and planning a wedding. I better make some moves along those lines, and very soon, too.
Five metres away Private Chesway is signalling urgently from the southern edge of the small plateau, while he says, "You better look at this, Sir." He's pointing at the road across the valley on the areed side.
Going to the southern end Granite looks over the edge, and sees thousands of Dareed troops in the valley. They're moving along the mountain road that goes through the pass on the other side of the valley. Pulling out his binoculars he looks to the east and the west, seeing what looks like lots of troop near the other two mountain passes. Spinning away from the edge he pulls out his map case and heads for the communications team. They'd beat him up the cliff-face and got set up long ago. Ah, the resilience and strength of youth.
Studying the map, he orders, "Private Chesway, set up long rappel lines." He turns to the radio operator, "Give me the mic set to full power on the command broadcast frequency and get me the Brigadier on the other set." Taking a calming breath he activates the mic, "Hug, hug, hug. I say again, hug, hug, hug." He waits a moment for the Swords to stop climbing and settle into good secure holds. He thinks about how useful individual radios are to a military unit. Especially a unit like his, one that can be spread over a sheer cliff side. He activates the mic, "All troops, Three Alpha, emergency fall back, absolute minimum time back to vehicles, leave equipment if you must. Repeat, all troops, emergency fall back, absolute minimum time back to the vehicles, leave equipment if you must. Time's essential. Out." Turning to the corporal he sees the nod while the corporal hands him another mic. He says, "Sir, we have case Omega. Dareed troops moving up all three passes in very heavy strength. Estimate forty to fifty thousand with light and medium armour support. I've cancelled the exercise and withdrawing the regiment to the vehicles. We'll sweep back across the plain collecting civilians as we go. I'm ordering the eastern and western bridges blown and will make stand at Marley's Landing. I request all the combat and logistical support you can provide. Over." He stands there waiting, and looking at the shocked expressions on his people. Shocked, but still working. Already people are dropping over the edge and rappelling down the cliff-face, good soldiers, even if they're green.
The brigadier replies, "Concur, I'm alerting all commands and will advise when we've something concrete. At present the nearest support is over forty hours away from Marley's Landing, the Black Raptors. I'll contact them first. Good luck, and God bless. Over."
Granite says, "Thank you, out." He turns to the communications corporal, "Corporal Jelling, Platoon Commanders' network then the border patrol frequency, the general emergency frequency, followed by the Marley's Landing Militia Command." At the corporal's nod to confirm the frequency change he activates the mic, "All platoons, Three Alpha, we have case Omega, very heavy assault. As each vehicle has its regular complement get them started. Sweep back across the plain and collect everyone. Don't waste time. If they're not there leave a note explaining the situation and telling them to get into hiding fast. Move onto Marley's Landing. We'll stop them there. Company C demolition team to blow the eastern bridge, Company E demolition team to blow the western bridge, then both to join us at Marley's Landing. Good luck and see you at the party. Out." He waits for the corporal's next nod, and says into the mic, "Border control and patrol forces southern border, Colonel Mannheim, Third Claymore. War alert southern border. Border patrol officers to alert local civilians and get into hiding now! Repeat, war alert southern border. Border patrol officers to alert local civilians and get into hiding now! Colonel Mannheim, out." Another nod from the corporal, and he says, "All civilians southern Kotar Plain, Colonel Mannheim, Third Claymore. War alert, get to Marley's Landing within four hours or get into hiding now! Repeat, war alert, get to Marley's Landing within four hours or get into hiding! Out."
Looking up, the corporal says, "Sir, I triggered the civil emergency defence system on those last two messages. They recorded them and are putting them on loop broadcast. Here's the militia commander." He signals his team to start tearing down and packing up their other gear.
"Good thinking, Corporal Jelling." Activating the mic, Gerald says, "Colonel Mannheim, Third Claymore. A heavy assault force is pouring over our southern border. I'm falling back to Marley's Landing and intend to hold them there. Please evacuate everyone from the southern side of the river and the northern edge of the river. Set up refugee centres in safe points north of town and have your militia prepare fire-points along the river's northern bank. Over."
The radio speaks, "Major Peters, Marley Militia. Confirming inbound heavy assault force, evacuate southern side of river and northern bank. Establish safe refugee shelters north of town. Establish fire teams on northern bank. Wilco, out."
Granite hands the mic back and checks the mountains with his binoculars. His Swords are pouring down all the cliffs. Lucky they'd been exercising in the area or there would've been no warning at all. Watching his people going over the ledge he wonders how they'll fare. This regiment is just raised and not yet a year old. Only some senior NCOs and officers have any combat experience, and that with small bands of brigands. How the green troops will handle the coming battle is a mild concern. But more worrying is getting the regiment back out of the mountains and in one spot to fight, because they're spread out over fifteen kilometres of mountain range. The last of the platoon are leaving and he's next. He checks the previous person is far enough down, and wraps the rope around himself. He clips on and jumps off the two hundred and fifty metre cliff. This is the first stage of going back down the four hundred metres he'd climbed up during the night mountain climbing exercise. They're leaving a lot of rope and equipment on the mountainside. There'll be plenty of time to come back and get it after the battle, he hopes. If not, they won't need any of it, not at all.
Stopping on the last rise before the vehicles Granite scans the plain. Plumes of dirt are everywhere while troop carriers drive at top speed towards every farm in sight. He smiles when he heads for the command vehicle. Reaching it he climbs in, to hear Corporal Jelling say, "All platoons report they're under way, Sir."
He stumbles against the vehicle's wall when the driver takes off: he delights in upsetting the colonel like this. As usual he's the last out of the area: he likes to make sure the regiment is out first. He accepts the report with a nod while he heads to the map. His communications staff are marking the location of the units and their run paths to Marley's Landing. Very soon they're pulling into the first farm on their own return path and rousting the people out of bed. A corporal explains the situation. Sleepy headed children are fast to load in the troop transport while the adults fill up the farm vehicles and head off. The scene is repeated at farm after farm. Everyone wants the kids sent to safety with the Guards and they'll see what they can manage with their trucks.
Two hours since the alert and Swords are hanging over the sides of every regimental vehicle, because they're all packed with children. Hanging on while standing on the rear step Granite looks at the plain. It's like a disturbed ants nest with vehicles racing everywhere. Most are headed towards the bridges and some are going towards the mountains to the west. He says a silent prayer for all those who're heading into hiding. Looking to the south he can see the lead elements of the assault force are leaving the mountain forests. The regiment will have only an hour or two to prepare for battle after they reach Marley's Landing.
Well to the south, at the base of the mountains, General Bentley of the Dareed Army is softly cursing as he stands in his command vehicle looking at all the vehicles racing across the plains. It's obvious their surprise assault isn't quite the surprise they'd counted on. However, if they get to Marley's Landing and secure the bridge they'll win the war. Turning to the commanding officer of the mercenaries, he says, "Well, General Grant, looks like you've got to move fast. Take your people and go as fast as you can, get me that bridge." General Grant jumps down and crosses to his Jeep. He gets in and is talking on the radio while it drives down the road. General Bentley decides to concentrate his forces and orders the other columns to join his on reaching the plains.
Three and a half hours since the alert and the regiment is digging in around the fourteen houses on the southern bank of the Kotar River. Evacuees are pouring north across all three bridges. The lead Dareed elements will be here soon. The militia has fire teams dug in on the northern bank for six hundred metres each side of the bridge, most within one hundred and twenty metres of the bridge. Some are also covering the slope from the river. Granite is checking all the fire-points when the last two of his troop transports arrive. After they blow the bridges the demolition teams will travel along the northern bank in Jeeps. He has just under one thousand three hundred Swords to hold back over forty thousand attackers supported with light and medium armoured tanks. Not nice, but that's the job. No one joins the Guards and expects to go on picnics, but he would've liked nicer odds. He just has to deal with what he's got and do his best.
Directing the drivers to where he wants the vehicles parked to help form armoured cover for the Swords, Granite says, "Junior Lieutenant Rochester, send all but one squad of your platoon to Major Amiri for deployment and follow me with the last squad." The lieutenant sends the platoon off to the major and follows the colonel across the bridge and the five Swords of 1st squad, 6th platoon, E Company follow them.
About ten metres down the road from the bridge Granite stops beside a group of militia officers and introduces the lieutenant to Major Peters. Looking Major Peters squarely in the eye, he says, "Lieutenant Rochester is in command of all troops on this side of the river, no one fires a shot until she orders them to. Please make sure all your troops know and understand that." It's clear Major Peters is unhappy with having to take orders from such a junior officer, but nods and motions for the officers with him to spread the word. Turning to Lieutenant Rochester Granite points to a new machine-gun pit beside the road, saying, "This is your post, Lieutenant. The bridge is set to blow and the detonator is here. Should any enemy vehicles or a squad of troops reach the yellow line painted across the bridge, which I'm sure you can see, you're to blow the bridge regardless of who else is on it as well. You'll command all forces on this side and hinder all enemy efforts to build a bridge or cross the river in any way. Do you understand, Lieutenant?"
Lieutenant Rochester swallows, saying, "Surely you can assign a more senior person to this post, Sir?"
Taking her a bit further away he faces the lieutenant, and quietly says, "Yes, I can. But you're the only person in this command who I know, for sure, will blow that bridge no matter what, if the need arises. You know I've met you at an official function and I know who your father is, Your Highness. I also know you're your father's daughter and you'll do what you have to do. I know you'll blow that bridge if it's needed, regardless of who's on it. You'll do it for the people, especially those civilians here in the town."
Gulping, she stands straight, and salutes, "Yes, Sir. For the people."
Returning the salute, he says, "If that need arises, the only thing the regiment will have left is its honour, and that's now in your hands. I know it's safe there." Turning, he walks back across the bridge.
While Lieutenant Rochester is directing her five troops to spread out amongst the militia to steady and control their fire one of the militia captains walks up, and asks her, "How will we get support to them if you blow the bridge?"
The lieutenant looks at him, and says, "If the enemy forces reach the bridge the only support the regiment will need is a burial detail." The captain looks at her in shock, gulps, turns, and quietly walks away.
Meanwhile the Swords of the third are working in the fields while they prepare surprises for the incoming enemy. They dig many holes to conceal radio remote detonated explosive charges. Fire-points are camouflaged and well hidden from enemy observation. Some Swords are hiding in camouflaged points in the fields as well.
An hour and a half later everyone is in position and no evacuees are on the roads now. Only the fast growing dust clouds of the advancing enemy is moving. Tension is growing amongst the defenders, the farm refugees, and the townspeople. People are still milling about at the northern edge of the town while they settle down to wait.
Word has arrived. The whole Raptor Brigade is on its way as fast as they can, so are the 2nd Claymore, and a company of the 1st Claymore who're on manoeuvres in the Amir Mountains at the northern edge of the plain. All will arrive between dawn, the Black Raptors, and noon the day after tomorrow. It's nearing noon and they'll need to hold the bridge for over forty hours. The rest of the Guards are heading to set up defences at the Amir Mountains. Two distant explosions are heard as they mark the end of the other bridges. Now the enemy has to take this bridge or admit defeat and withdraw.
The brunt of the attack will be along the road, so the two fire-points beside the road are the heaviest gunned and manned by a platoon each. Colonel Mannheim leads on one side and his second in command (Major Amiri) on the other. Both are well fortified and include heavy weapons with lots of ammunition for all in them. All the ammunition is distributed to the troops because there'll be no time for resupply runs, not once the party starts in earnest. All activity is over because the preparations are finished.
Fifteen minutes later Colonel Mannheim stands up and reviews the preparations. He clicks his belt radio to the 'all hands' setting. He says, "OK, people, here comes your baptism by fire. You're well-trained; you know your jobs and your duty. Buckle down and do what you've trained for. We're Claymore; let's show these bums how sharp we can cut them. Keep the radio chatter to a minimum. Many of you want to know why the older troops call me Granite, well, now you'll find out. It's because I'm as hard and unyielding as Granite. We give no ground." Pulling his sword from its scabbard he raises it high above his head, swings it around, and shoves it into the ground beside him. Thus indicating the 'Stand Decree.' Legally, only the King or a member of the Royal Family sired by a king can declare the Stand Decree by doing the same motions of the sword Granite used while they say a set formula. It's a clear statement to the troops: there'll be no falling back from this position and they'll only leave here after the battle is over, either walking away victorious or carried away dead or seriously wounded and unable to fight. Technically, Colonel Mannheim has committed an act of lese-majeste by carrying out these actions. He doesn't say the words because he isn't entitled to.
When the colonel turns to step back into his fire post Major Amiri stands up to draw his sword and repeat the movements while he says, over the same broadcast circuit, "Here I stand, here I stay. The Amir stand and fight today." Granite and the Swords near the major all turn and stare at him. By this action the major is acknowledging he's a royal prince, son of the King, and he approves of the colonel's actions. No sooner has he finished sticking his sword in the ground than Lieutenant Rochester stands and repeats the actions with the same words. Thus indicating her royal lineage, surprising Major Peters and his militia. The major now understands why the lieutenant is in charge of the defences on this side. Once more the royal family are standing with their troops at the battle front. Peace and quiet settles over the waiting troops as well as a firm determination to win for the people. Knowing the King's family stands and fight with them adds to their determination to win. It helps them to know their country's leaders join them at the battle front and lead from the front, prepared to fight and die in battle with the troops they command.