William wasn’t sure how the dwarves had managed to arrive near Cruonia with their ships in such good shape. Did they have people working around the clock to remove metalsuckers? Did they actually lose ship that he didn’t hear about somehow? Were they just very lucky? Maybe he was just unlucky instead, though he supposed that there were far worse things they could have faced. He managed to keep all of the ships mostly undamaged by the time they entered dwarven waters, though it meant only sporadic sleep. He couldn’t afford to have the ships damaged if he wanted to have the return trip go smoothly.
Of course, before they could worry too much about the return trip they had to complete the first leg of the journey. They skirted the outer islands as they saw them on the horizon. Perhaps someone might notice them, perhaps not. Unfortunately they couldn’t completely avoid the islands, but at least they could avoid getting close enough for cannon range.
William didn’t think the dwarves had any weaponry designed specifically to deal with their own ships, but that didn’t mean regular cannons weren’t useful. Even the fortress ships would eventually fall under cannon fire. William wanted to have plenty of energy reserves on the trip back- or at the very least reserved for trouble they couldn’t avoid.
They passed merchant ships on the journey, but not from up close. Even if the ships were looking, they wouldn’t be able to make out any details. At the first sign of any ships, William used magic to blur the image of the ships. It wasn’t invisibility, but just a wall that distorted light. That was much easier to do on a larger scale. Since the dwarves couldn’t see mana themselves, they might think it a trick of reflections off the water or something else- and that was only if they were looking through a spyglass.
Ships entered the harbor on a calm night. On such a calm night, ships couldn’t sail. These ships also did not have men rowing. Even so, they entered the harbor and landed at the docks.
The night watch did not notice them. There had not been anything to see for most of their careers, and they had no reason to believe anything would be different that night. They kept watch, but they failed to notice the subtle magic that kept the ships hidden. Then they found themselves drifting off into unconsciousness, one at a time.
Tall figures stepped off of the ships- the tallest that had ever set foot on the shores of the island, at least in living memory. Before dawn, they occupied the docks and the defenses around them. The guards found themselves without equipment, and those who still had weapons or armor elsewhere were reluctant to do anything when they saw the forces arrayed against them. As the sun rose, the dwarven harbor town was woken up with an announcement.
“Men and women of Granite Cliffs…” William projected his voice throughout the harbor city, “Due to some unfortunate circumstances, we have been forced to occupy this lovely harbor of yours. We ask that all of you remain calm. Stay inside your homes, and no harm will come to you.” Some of those on the outer edge of the city might not hear him clearly, but they would talk to those further in. He didn’t actually care if they stayed inside their homes or not, as long as they didn’t approach the docks.
William proceeded to tell the tale of the dwarves attacking Cruonia- twice, and refusing offers of diplomacy. He tried not to make it too antagonistic to the dwarves, but even just stating the facts put them in a bad light. Perhaps the people wouldn’t believe him, but they would have heard the words… and that was a start.
Fortunately the harbor hadn’t had much in the way of defenses. Truth be told, it was even less than what Cruonia had before the attacks from the dwarves. They hadn’t expected any sort of attacks. In a way, they were correct to believe there wouldn’t be any.
William and most of his army marched along the roads. He would have preferred to ride, but they hadn’t been able to bring mounts on the ships for reasons of both space and food. Likewise, Granite Cliffs didn’t have enough mounts sized for gevai, and William didn’t want to rob the place regardless. A swift day of marching wouldn’t be bad for the men, even if they were fatigued from the long time at sea. Nobody wanted to complain in front of the Eternal King- and he had done at least as much as any one of them during the journey of over a month.
The dwarven roads were solid stone roads. That was the sort of thing one expected between harbors and their capital, but William appreciated it nonetheless.
Along the road, they stopped to make similar announcements to the towns and villages they passed by. Occasionally they were met with crossbow fire, and even more occasionally a shot from a gun- but nobody was prepared for the intrusion of an army. William incapacitated such people, and then they moved on.
He knew the word would probably spread about their presence, but they would reach the capital before evening. Though Dhugulir was on a relatively large island, it was still very much an island. The roads were good enough to make the thirty mile journey to the center of the island possible in a single day… if one could march at a quick pace all day. The gevai soldiers under William could do that easily, and even could have done it at a jog in armor… but they wouldn’t have arrived in the best state they could be in.
As it was, they arrived outside the city relatively fresh. They could fight, if they had to. As they approached Dhugulir, the gates were hastily shut. William would have recommended the same upon seeing an unexpected armed force approaching. Still, a closed gate wouldn’t stop him. He could yell beyond it… and if necessary do more than that. The gate and walls it defended were moderately sized, but the city it surrounded was rather small. At least, it appeared that way. William knew that was because most of the city was under the surface. “People of Dhugulir…” William started, “Your council has declared war without your knowledge. At least, their repeated attacks on our country indicate so. If this was their intention, we will have no choice but to reciprocate. If it was not… then clearly they missed our previous two messages indicating we could be diplomatic about the whole situation. You have until the sun dips below the horizon to send representatives to talk, or we will have to continue the war you started.”
William couldn’t see anyone inside the walls- but he could sense them and hear them. The reactions of the citizens told him they didn’t know they were coming- or about the attacks. Hopefully they would go drag their council out of hiding.