If Gavin de Luc was less of a leader, there would be no way he could convince anyone else to follow him on this insane mission. Luckily for him and the frontier, though, the Mad Dog could have his men chomping at the bit even for a suicide mission with just one good speech. Because that was what this was at worst, a suicide mission. And even if everything worked out perfectly, there was no way all three ships were making it out once they had gotten themselves in. Rhylenor or Skystead could blockade the only exit, and seal them in extremely easily... especially with word spreading quickly to Skystead on the wings of the black.
This should have never happened... or at least, he should have had a plan ready. He was actually having a meeting with a lesser, allied solo captain when the fishing boats came in... right towards them. Filled with humans, waving flags and desperately trying to get attention. Screaming about how the Rhylen elves were going to kill everyone, and how they were coming en masse. An uncountable horde, they had said. Obviously they were exaggerating, but the fear and the fact that they were desperate enough to sail right up to a pirate ship with the black fag raised for help belied just how dire the situation was for them back home. The elves had come and given warning that any remaining in their homes after a day would be killed to a man, with their city razed to the ground in the process.
The Mad Dog took control over the situation, then. He organized the lower level captain to guide the refugees to the nearest port, and rush to Skystead with word. If he were to see any allied captains along the way, the captain was to pass the message on and call in all favors on behalf of the Pirate Lord, Captain de Luc. The message was simple for the pirates: All offensive actions on Skystead naval and merchant ships were to stop immediately, and a bounty was set for each Rhylen ship or village put to the torch. The man the Mad Dog sent on this quest was reasonably loyal, and a bribe was also included to help ensure that loyalty stayed. If that message got across to who it needed to, all the enforcement he would need didn't even need to come from his own crew. Gavin's allies could do the brunt of the enforcement while the Mad Dog just protected the frontier. He even gave the lesser captain a crisp, new flag so that he could pretend to be a Skystead ship on the way back to reduce the chances that he was accosted by the very people he was sent to help on the way back.
For his men, he used a different tact and went all out. He appealed to them personally, because there was absolutely no point in hiding how personal of an affront it was to him. He appealed to their ego and pride, by telling them how much of a message they could send and how much respect they could gain my repelling an actual military. He appealed to their shame, by telling them that any man who was not willing to take this plunge with him could take the fastest ship, the Elves Bane, and leave with zero consequences and a severance package. He appealed to their greed, by forfeiting his share for the next ten hauls to be spread equally amongst the crew for doing this favor for him.
He knew damn well not a damn man would be the first to express cowardice by stepping off first, and he played on their emotions like a finely tuned instrument. At the end, he even appealed to their sense of camaraderie by expressing his gratitude and heaping praise upon the crew as the best he had ever sailed with. While he did deliberately play with their emotions, Gavin was not a heartless man who cared not for their lives and well-being... but his priorities were different than most other pirate captains. The Mad Dog would always be a frontiersman, first and foremost and would always rush to protect his homeland from hostile forces who wished to invade. The numbers estimate by the refugees also terrified him, because his own hometown was very much in the line of fire if this was a frontier-wide assault like the fishermen claimed while the rest of the world was distracted by the celebrations in the capital.
A coward's move, to be sure, but one that would be countered by the third party the knife-eared bitch in power least expected. When they sailed to the major frontier port of Beverley where the refugees came from, Gavin had allowed dozens of the leaders who sailed under him to stand and sit in his own quarters as they had planned what their course of action and means of attack were going to be. Every major officer on each ship was included, including the leaders of the three boarding parties for three different frigates. There were some senior crew members without explicit titles on the outskirts, as well, listening in on the room packed with people.
The trip past the strait into Lake Emravil was quiet, and filled with the impromptu planning session that lasted most of the day it took to get to their destination. They had been positioned just outside the strait for the meeting before, and did not have far to go to get to the place the refugees were running from. There didn't seem to be any Rhylen naval power in the lake, so that left some room to counterattack. An oversight by the elven military that would not go unpunished, because they did not account for outside intervention in their invasion plans.
The end plan was not the most elegant, but was workable. In defensive actions, they would put up the flag and pretend to simply be Skystead naval ships so as not to freak out the villagers. They would go to land with the full force of all three boarding parties to stamp out the first village's invasion force, and then Gavin would go inland leading a smaller group inland while the vast majority of the forces remained on the three ships and liberated the coast where possible and moved on to attack Rhylen cities and ships whenever possible after that point.
Beverley was the name of the port which they landed, and they had arrived at the start of the attack. Defenders were holed up in hastily fortified buildings as the elves began to swarm in, but they did not expect hundreds of reinforcements to come in. An entire company's worth of approximately a hundred raiders littered the city by the time the three full boarding parties of the Mad Dog hit the shore, and approximately one hundred elves died to pirate steel and spells that day. The outlaws outnumbered them heavily, and chased that advantage with the type of brutality that did honor to the black flag they normally sailed under. Gavin's rare flash of sustained outward emotion displayed earlier in the speech had died down to the typical cold aloofness that permeated when engagement was nigh. His crew helped him find the knife-eared animals, and Gavin butchered all the raiders unfortunate enough to be in his line of sight with his signature shadow blade flurries. Those who weren't killed ended up fleeing back into the forest, but at least for the moment the town was secured.
Those that would be part of Gavin's excursion force were more heavily armored than the rest, with gambeson under a maille shirt under a brigandine jacket. On land, and in hostile territory it made sense to go with the heaviest armor that they had for those particular troops -- and they even managed to scrounge up enough sallet helmets with adjustable visors so the thirty odd men assigned to that detachment could have helmets as well. At least it wasn't summer anymore, and the bright side was that they did not have to wear this armor in the daytime where their torsos would essentially become ovens on the hotter days. They would be wearing them at night, without the sun beating down on the metal and making actually wearing the armor damn near unbearable.
The villagers were given some relief supplies in the form of food and water for the entire town, and the quick gathering of weapons mostly from the fallen elves to give to the largely intact of the town guard and remaining men who looked like they could fight. There were very few casualties due to the fact that Gavin and his crew had showed up so quickly, but large portions of the port’s outskirts were heavily damaged by the fighting. It was not the most ideal of outcomes, but it could have been much worse.
The pirates identified themselves as a mixed crew, with Captain Solomons leading the charge on the sea with his three frigates and Lieutenant Blake leading the charge on land with a platoon of thirty men. Gavin had used the alias before, at the start of his career, so it was just the first fake name that came to mind. Skystead military, all of them, who just happened to be in the area when the call for help rang out. Fortuitous timing, to be sure, and they were all just glad they came in time to save at least some of the villagers.
The crew of the Mad Dog went their separate ways, then, with the best swordsmen going with Gavin and the best mages going with Alfie. The pirate lord needed good fighters to cover his own weakness, since he was more than confident enough in his own magical ability to carry them through any rough patch they encountered. Alfie, on the other hand, needed the rest of the firepower with him in order to more effectively raid and engage in naval warfare when needed with a very magically inclined enemy. Each port town that they liberated from elven control, another small group of volunteers would go to land to help ferret out the bastards on land at least for a time. Gavin's platoon would likely be the only permanent land based patrol, but the stated goal was very much making damn sure that they saved as many civilians on the frontier as possible.
For Gavin in particular, though, he had a very specific and very real goal in mind -- making sure his own town was not razed and his own hometown not butchered at the hands of the Rhylen. By the time the separation had occurred, it was well into the morning hours and at least for the day the Mad Dog's platoon was to make camp in the ruins of Beverley both to fend off a second wave of assault and to bide their time until nighttime where they had the significant advantage once more. From there, they would cut their way inwards town by town until they made it to Leeds... hopefully in time to save it.
The ground portion of this mission was obviously the most dangerous, so the captain did not coerce anyone or manipulate them emotionally to have them join. It was just the best swordsmen of the volunteers, which turned out to be the best fighters of each boarding crew. Gavin was more than willing to die attempting to save the people he cared about, so he only wanted and only got men who were loyal enough to die right alongside him if it came to that. If he ended up surviving this foolhardy and suicidal quest, he mused to himself, he would have to lay off the dangerous missions for a few months and just find a way to sell off all the weapons in his hull for a tidy profit to hold everyone over for a long and well-deserved break from action.
The only problem, of course, was not only surviving... but surviving with enough of a crew to actually give a break to. From here on out, all he could do was hope that his own and Alfie's leadership and tactical ability would be enough to see them through to the end. Given the lack of time to actually prepare fully and an unwillingness to wait until more information was available... This was the only shot that they had, and the only pillar which they had to lean on. Leadership ability and an ability to improvise honed off the whetstone of a thousand engagements. Gavin just prayed it would be enough, this day and for each day this liberation assignment lasted.