The march to Aleppo started well, the army left September 21st of 1097. Siege equipment had been deconstructed, with horses and other pack animals to move it. Aubert’s reputation (at 3 by this point) was strong but still his relative greenness compared to the great Franko-Norman lords meant he was in the middle of the army, not trusted with the rear or the vanguard.
Kaldas had recruited nearly all of the non Tytalus magi, to march with Aubert’s “nation,” with only a lone Isobela ex Jerbiton, Æþelbeorht’s wife, to chronicle the utterly incessant Tytalus bickering. Their involvement in Antioch fighting the Sahirs inspired a whole new dimension of their games that Kaldas refused to participate in.
Tactically, after the Crusader’s experiences with the Turks, they followed Tatikios’s advice: The army marched in 4 close formations of a “fighting march” (historical!). This is a rectangular box of infantry with enmeshed archers/crossbowman who then surround the supply train and the medium and heavy cavalry in the middle. In the event of an attack from Turkish horse archers, the armored infantry soak arrows, the archers/crossbowmen fire back from a farther range, and the protected cavalry wait to pounce on the Turkish horsemen if they made the mistake of getting too close.
This worked brilliantly against the first couple night raids on their supplies. It did not work when the armies supply wagons were attacked by aerial and invisible Jinn. Aubert had to coordinate archers using his Second Sight on where to make massed arrow attacks, and managed fend them off his army, but the other three commanders were less effective, and supplies were lost before the attached Hermetic wizards could effectively fend off the Jinn.
Kaldas coordinated with the attached Flambeau to disperse amongst the army to help fend off further attacks, with the Russian Tytali remaining with him. Aubert passed some orders to create an irresistible target: sloppy night guards, his men pretended to be disorganized and demoralized. When the next attack focused on Aubert’s Forces, the four Russian Tytali turned into Giants and massacred the attacking Jinn, who were numerous but relatively weak.
It did not end there. Further day raids happened with newly summoned Jinn, which surprised the Crusaders more. Kaldas ordered his Commanded and bound Jinn to go scout and find out. A mighty War Jinn named “Gebron,” was organizing the raids. Kaldas ordered all of his Jinn to follow Bartamaeus’s instructions and go kill Gebron. This resulted in the destruction of the castle of Harim, whose population along with Artah’s had earlier fled to Aleppo.
This did work, but Kaldas lost a most of his Jinn, with 6 out of 21 remaining, with Bartamaeus reporting they killed other lesser Jinn. The vis however did get recovered after the battle. Kaldas did investigate for a Sahir presence, but could not find any sign, assuming (correctly) they were scrying and giving their Jinn a longer leash to harass the crusaders.
Given the massive size of the crusader forces and the destruction of Harim, the forces of Artah fled to Aleppo, with Crusaders capturing the town & castle. Bohemond had his colors put on the front gate as a marker.
After leaving Harim, the raids slowed down to merely tested and probed the Crusaders’ defences rather than true raids.
The arrival to Aleppo needs a quick note about the historical layout in 1097 vs later in the Crusader period. The second eastern wall was an additional construction made by the Ayyubids well after the 1st Crusade and not finished until 1134. The famous Citadel at this point in history was more exposed than the famous pictures you see on the internet today. The gatehouse was not nearly as developed either, with the famous 540 degrees worth of turning not yet made.
The Crusaders settled around some distance away from the artillery on the walls while they began constructing siege engines with what they could from the surviving supplies. Aubert’s nation took the south, Robert of Flanders the west, Bohemond the north, and Robert of Normandy the east to create a full blockade of the city.
Kaldas called a council with the Flambeau and Tytalus magi, making the case that the Order of Solomon clearly had little compunction about interference, and that Order of Hermes needed to treat this is a larger war with a rival order of wizards. Even without a Quaesitor present, they knew this was new legal territory, as the only applicable rulings were "join or die."
At time same time, they agreed that waiting for the Order of Solomon to regroup and make another attack was foolish. Kaldas asked them to give him two days to “get an informant in and out of the city to get the layout of the defenses.”
The Flambeau Archmagi most certainly raised their eyebrows, and argued that was unnecessary. They could merely cast Veil of Invisibility and scout for themselves. Kaldas argued far better for him to take some chances and for them to act on solid intelligence. Reluctantly they agreed, saying that could cause scrying magic on the city to get a decent sense of it anyways.
Kaldas also found out using his Eyes of the Eagle spell combined with Second Sight that they city had dozens of Jinn up in the sky, watching. With that, he ordered Bartamaeus to sneak in most carefully and locate where the Order of Solomon gathered and to get out.
The news of Jinn in the sky allowed Kaldas to argue against the Flambeau to attack, because of potential damage to the city, and to avoid falling into a trap. The Flambeau argued that sneaking invisibly and raiding the city for just a couple minutes (20 combat rounds) at a time would allow them to test how formidable the defenses truly were.
The Russian Tytalus magi agreed, heavily outvoted Kaldas. With Veil of Invisibility and some Rego Corpus magic, everyone could get inside without much trouble during the night and to start killing guards and see how long it took for the Jinn to come in numbers. Kaldas also wanted to probe the extent of the orders given to the Jinn, to see how much flexibility they were allowed.
As cover for the raids, Aubert in the War council with the princes let them know he would organize a group of elite men to conduct raids into the city. The Princes felt it would be foolish… However, Kaldas argued he “the right kind of unusual men for the job.” The princes taking the hint about wizards agreed to allow them to continue so long as they were successful.
The night raids worked well, because they were truly short. By the time Jinn and Sahir’s came in numbers, the hermetic Magi were already gone. They picked different spots each time. The various Crusader camps did wonder about fireworks in the evening, but word got round about some kind of secret group making night attacks, and figured it involved Greek Fire of some sort.
Because of this, Kaldas allowed Bartamaeus a bit more time to find the Order of Solomon’s location in the city. Once it was found, there was considerable disagreement on how to attack. The raids of the Jinn were too coordinated, with potentially spies, or some kind of auguries giving them away.
Kaldas, thinking big, argued for a tunnel to go from there camp and appear underneath the Order of Solomon's Aleppo headquarters.
Aislinn ex Flambeau, the Rego Terram specialist, suggested he could do such a thing, but with a lot of vis for a spontaneous spell. Risky, but worth it, so the rest of the magi agreed.
A hole opened in the ground opened, with a pile of sand/dirt/clay being excavated out of it.
Now, Aislinn’s estimations and control of magic while handling 20 pawns of vis to cast a spontaneous ReTe 40 spell (at least by my estimations) was not up to the task, and when I rolled for him, he botched. Not once, not twice, not thrice, but four 0’s appeared. As GM, I thought about it a second, rolled on my handy dandy chart to see what kind of botch, (weighted towards catastrophic failure), it actually turned into a critical success of all things.
But still, a quadruple botch for a 40th level spell has some exciting consequences.
The magi watched in horror as Aislinn lost control of the spell… And dissipated in a fantastically colorful puff of multihued yellow-brown rainbow into Wizard’s Twilight.
The excavation of earth magnified a hundred-fold. The ground shook, and a massive earthquake started, knocking most people over – even Kaldas failed his Dexterity check.
The earth did not stop spilling out of the hole, so not only was there an earthquake, but the underground tunnel was actually lowering the ground. Kaldas did okay on his perception check, so didn’t spot it right away. By the time he did, he made the roll to realize that the Magi were behind his army… With Aubert’s army on top of what would soon be a small canyon, which would kill much of his new army.
Kaldas made a decent leadership roll (18 or so, including a +6 from confidence) to run screaming through the army and get them to move eastwards as the bulk of the army was on the east of the canyon already. Aubert’s army responded, as Kaldas and Aubert are perfect twins, but found it odd Aubert wasn’t there initially. The player had to make some guile rolls and spontaneously cast some spells to lose his wizard’s garments and summon his armor subtly to make it seem like Aubert appeared on the scene. (Handy to have Subtle + Silent magic virtues). These spells cost a sweet amount of vis to pull off.
Painfully, this also included abandoning some supply & water wagons in order to maintain his Secret Identity.
From there by the time “Aubert” got them moved over and out of the way… He watched the canyon grow into Aleppo, pulling down the walls and rubble with it. There was a way in, but, that no one was prepared for.
The player realized he HAD to attack, with just his own forces. The total Leadership roll to send a couple messengers to each other camp to come around for an attack, while leading his own, smaller force as the vanguard into the city was 24 (again, including those handy 2 CP for an extra +6). The Aleppo commander, only totaled 12, rolling a 0, but not a botch and spending confidence. It was a slaughter.
Unknown to Aubert, since the hermetic Magi did know the rough location to attack, the two Archmagi led it. They did not hold back and blew up a significant amount of the city (a critical fail for collateral damage on the random chart) ahead of Aubert’s assault in the their quest to slay all of the Sahirs in the Order of Solomon's in Aleppo
The Crusaders took the city… But between the earthquake and the unleashed Hermetic attack, it looked like a post apocalyptic warzone. Barely more than a third of Aleppo remained still intact and functional, and the wall had several new openings that needed filled.
Given the earthquake and sudden attack… Ridwan of Aleppo’s personal Astrologer (historical!), a Sahir and a member of the Order of Solomon cast an augury and ordered the Emir to flee or face certain death. Ridwan fled with his family in the chaos to Mosul, leaving his men to fend for themselves.
Many Muslim/Turkish soldiers did not fight and were captured. After the battle, Aubert argued for mercy, but Bohemond and the two Roberts had outwitted Aubert, with men ready to slaughter thousands of captured soldiers and ransomed only those with means to pay exorbitant ransoms. Aubert at least tried to get the executed men put into mass burials, rather than rot outside of the city.
Peter the Hermit declared their unexpected success as a sign from God, and that Jesus would soon come down from the Heavens to bless them in person before battle with the Antichrist.
Bohemond declared himself the “Prince of Aleppo,” and is “protecting it for the Emperor.”
If anyone has any historical corrections to offer or questions to ask, please do. For example I’m not clear actually what title Bohemond would have proclaimed himself as, or if he would have been so bold at this point in the Crusade.