379YE Winter Solstice winds of war
- 1 Overview
- 2 The Storms of Spiral
- 3 The Rains of Reikos
- 4 The Thunder of the Barrens
- 5 The Mists of Liathaven
- 6 The Mourning Wind
- 7 The Rage of the Jotun
- 8 Audio Files
On the whole, the last three months have been kind to the Empire. On the whole.
In Spiral, Fort Mezudan is destroyed by powerful magic. Imperial forces and Grendel forces engage in a hard fought campaign for control of the western regon of Ateri, which the Empire wins. The Grendel are pushed back, but the Empire makes little headway into liberating the rest of the territory.
A little north of Spiral, it seems the Reikos campaign is drawing toward a conclusion. After the heroes of the Empire launched a devastating attack through the Sentinel Gate during the Autumn Equinox that saw brought down the citadel of Urith Barath and scattered the Stone Toad clan to the five winds, the Navarr and Dawnish armies have triumphed over the fleeing orcs and liberated not only many human victims of the Druj, but also the territory itself. Although there are some pockets of resistance, Reikos is now Imperial once again.
Further north again, the independent orcs of the Barrens launch a significant offensive against the Dawnish in Dawnguard. They are attempting to claim the Towers of the Dawn, the fortification that watches over that Imperial region of the wild, untamed wilderness. For the moment they are trying to avoid killing civilians and noncombatants, but there have been numerous of deaths on both sides.
On the western borders of the Empire, the war against the Jotun is entering its active phase for the first time. The Freeborn armies have moved into northern Liathaven and begun to slowly reclaim territory from the Jotun. They do not seem to have encountered any significant military opposition, but the difficulties of establishing a presence with limited supply lines are slowing them down. At the same time, a major force of Jotun has conquered southern Liathaven, burning steadings and slaughtering any Navarr unable to escape or hide from them.
Finally, the Empire has finally moved forces into the Mournwold. They are making steady progress against the Jotun, and have already recaptured the Ore Hills - and claimed a partially constructed fortress there. The Jotun are falling back slowly, supported by human collaborators - it seems many who have grown up under Jotun rule have chosen to favour their way of life over that of the Empire.
So with the Winter Solstice approaching, the Empire has made gains in some places, and lost ground in others. Things are going slower than perhaps some armchair generals expected. Especially since the Empire is at war on at least three fronts. At least the peace treaty with the Thule appears to be holding ...
The Storms of Spiral
The Ruin of Fort Mezudan
Fort Mezudan lies in ruins.
Shortly after the Autumn Equinox, a luminous greenish-yellow effulgence engulfed the highest spires of Fort Mezudan. It leapt from roof to battlement, coiling across the ramparts and the rooves like a living thing, before striking down to the lower levels. For a few minutes, every item of metal larger than an eating knife was wreathed in the cold flame. Then it was gone, and the first rain began to fall, and wind began to wail between the towers.
The storm gathered strength over the course of a day, battering the castle with increasingly powerful winds and pounding rain.
Shortly after sunset, the first spear of lightning hammered into one of the towers with an ear-shattering explosion, sending shards of sharp stone in all directions. For four hours, the castle was pummelled with thunderbolts. As the lightning cracked and broke the stone, the wind howled louder and louder. The rain thickened until it was a veritable deluge, cascading water making the courtyards and stairs treacherous and click. The rain sent cold, questing fingers searching for any crack in the white granite walls, and where they found them they tore them open to the hungry wind.
For four hours the storm raged. Then silence. People began to pick themselves up and assess the damage. The rain continued to pour down but the winds were silent. There were a few guarded expressions of satisfaction that the Fist had weathered the magical storm. There had been some loss of life - two sentinels thrown from the ramparts by the wind, a tragic tumble down a rain-slickened staircase resulting in a broken neck - but it could have been worse. Yet the clouds continued to swirl above. A desperate warning came from Illuminate Nissea, the otherwise unflappable commander of the castle. The storm was not over.
The final hammer struck out of the eye of the storm. A whirling tempest, roaring like some abyssal behemoth, smashed down from the churning sky into the heart of Fort Mezudan. A thaumaturgic gyre, summoned and unleashed with the most potent of Spring magics, tore the central tower to pieces and sent boulders of white granite spinning through the air like so much lethal chaff. The devastating column of wind, water, and stone lasted no more than ten minutes, and then collapsed violently one final apocalyptic detonation of thunder. The wind died. The rain continued to fall, heavy enough to hamper efforts to find survivors beneath the rubble.
With Urizen thoroughness, a tally of the dead, the injured, and the lost was quickly prepared. Seventy sentinels, magi, and spirefolk are accounted dead. This number including Illuminate Nissea, along with the majority of the stone-crafters guild, slain while attempting to shore up the collapsing central keep. A further sixty serious injuries are listed, along with eight souls unaccounted for either lost beneath the rubble or hurled to their deaths on the lower slopes by the cruel winds.
Fort Mezudan, the lonely sentinel in the east, stands watch no longer.
The War for Ateri
Had the storm struck earlier, it might have caught the army of the Granite Pillar still billeted at the Fist, and the death toll would surely have been higher. Yet when the Fist fell, the Highborn army was already marching. With the Quiet Step, they were marching north-east towards Screed and the slumbering horror of the Black Plateau. Had the storms struck a week later, it might have caught the Northern Eagle, the Wolves of War, and the Citadel Guard marching east from Highguard. As it was, they arrived several days after the destruction, after the last of the bodies had been recovered from the wreckage, just in time to attend the last of the funerals.
There is little time for grief. Imperial strategy is straightforward and ambitious. The Empire's forces intend to push cautiously through Ateri, driving the Grendel out. Then, on to Screed and the looming shadow of the Black Plateau; then onward to liberate the Legacy. A bold plan.
The Grendel strategy also appears to be quite straightforward. They launch a major offensive into Ateri the very morning after the ruination of Fort Mezudan. Despite being outnumbered by Imperial forces, they drive a spear-thrust of orcs and beasts into the heart of the Imperial armies. Perhaps a thousand-score barbarians, with siege weapons and unfamiliar warbeasts attempt to consolidate the gains made last season in Ateri.
If the Granite Pillar and the Quiet Step had been the only Imperial forces in Spiral, they would have outnumbered them two-to-one and we might be telling a different story here. With the relief column marching down from face nearly, however, they instead face nearly thirty-thousand Imperials. Not only are there three extra armies, but the Wolves of War are supported by one of the most significant forces of independent captains seen in recent memory, nearly ten thousand strong.
The Grendel respond quickly to the new threat. For all their savagery they are able to react quickly to unexpected Imperial tactics - perhaps supernaturally so. The soldiers who fight beneath the banner of the wading bird are particularly adept at countering Imperial stratagems. Their captains swathed cinnamon and scarlet silks direct a significant force of more traditionally dressed barbarians to cut off the Imperial advance, while avoiding Navarr attempts to lure them into ambushes, and countering the cunning feints of the cause-bound mercenaries of the Wolves of War.
The Wolves of War, advised by mercenary Urizeni strategists and supported by Varushkan and Wintermark sellswords with long experience of fighting in hills and mountains should have easily outmaneuvered the Grendel and attacked them from their rear. Unfortunately, the Grendel are already on the move by the time the Wolves of War arrive - they are not taking defensive positions, but pushing forward towards the Fist. They also enjoy the support of the naval vessels anchored on the southern coast; hard-bitten marines support the rear encampments of the Grendel, delivering valuable supplies to help the Grendel against their Imperial enemies.
In the end though, the campaign is proof that any while strategy is important, it helps to have your plan backed by superior numbers. Slowly but with growing confidence the Empire pushes north-east, and the Grendel fall back. That said, the Imperial forces never see the Black Plateau (except perhaps in their dreams). None save perhaps the scouts of the Quiet Step get to see the Legacy in distant Ossuary. The fighting is bitter, but it is largely constrained to the western foothills.
The Grendel cannot hold back the Imperial advance - over the course of three months they are slowly, slowly pushed back out of Ateri. The majority retreat toward Apulus (no doubt the take advantage of the supplies offered by their naval forces), but perhaps a third of the force retreats north-east, to defensive positions scattered around the outskirts of Screed.
During the Imperial advance, the soldiers of the Empire account for as many as three thousand Grendel orcs, while suffering barely half that many casualties themselves. Yet the Grendel show no signs of being routed - quite the contrary. Even in retreat the core of their barbarian forces remain disciplined. They do not flee, they withdraw in good order - all the while gathering up as much mana as they can find, and as much metal as they can claim from the mines on the mountain slopes.
The Grendel forces are a long way from home ... but they are well supplied and the Empire has seen in Sermersuaq how deadly a committed barbarian force can be if it chooses to make the Empire pay blood for the territory it seeks to reclaim. If the rate of Imperial advance stays constant, Urizen mathematacticians estimate it may take as long as six months to conquer Screed alone - assuming the Black Plateau remains quiescent in the face of the tide of death and hatred that armed conflict will doubtless stir up around it.
Fort Mezudan has been destroyed by potent Grendel sorcery. The Empire has recaptured the region of Ateri from the Grendel, but made no headway toward Ossuary; the rest of Spiral is firmly in the hands of the Grendel. The campaign continues.
The Rains of Reikos
The Fall of the Stone Toad
The citadel of Urith Barath lies in ruins, and with it the ambition of the Stone Toad clan.
The orcs are not gone from Reikos entirely, but they are broken and scattered. The majority of the Stone Toad army retreated into Urith Barath after their defeat on the open fields in the Summer. Much of the garrison fell when the Bounders, the Strong Reeds, the Citadel Guard, and the Valiant Pegasus broke through the fortress walls. Then, at the height of the Autumn Equinox, after days of vicious fighting, the Sentinel Gate opened to the foot of the Druj citadel and the heroes of the Empire poured through. In a brutal and risky battle, they broke the defensive forces and gave the Imperial armies the final opening they needed to take High Chalcis back from the barbarians - and with it Chalcis Mount. Any orc who did not flee paid for their overconfidence with their life - and many of those who did run as the walls came down gained only an extra day or so of life.
The great granite walls, built from looted stone and stolen weirwood, mortared with the blood of slaves, have been torn down and with them the last significant sign of barbarian occupation of Reikos. The banners of the Stone Toad have been trampled into the mud. The handfuls of surviving slaves within the castle have been liberated. And for the first time in years, the banners of the Highborn Chapters have been raised on Chalcis Mount once again ... raised over a shattered ruin.
The Rain Falls on the Just
It rains in Reikos. But for the first time since the liberation began, the water is fresh, and clean, and cleanses what it touches. It washes away exhaustion, it washes clean the wounds of those fighting to free the scattered enclaves of Highguard citizens still surviving in the bleak plains and hills of Reikos. Perhaps most importantly, it washes away the taint of the Reikos Flux, the remaining foulness that the Druj used to poison the land. Any wound short of a mortal blow heals overnight ... which is good for the Imperials, but makes little difference to the scattered, outmatched, broken orcs who are often as not executed where they fall. There is little taste for mercy among the soldiers of the Empire. The water brings fresh life to the ruined landscape, a promise of a better Spring to come. It also brings hope.
Speed and righteousness are the key to the Imperial strategy. The armies of the Empire leave little space for the Druj miasma to assail their spirits. Yet the miasma still clings to Reikos - the black stones that anchor its foulness still stand. In the long nights, in the face of each little horror uncovered as the Empire advances north and west, the miasma still whispers of despair, and failure; of weakness, of futility.
As the cleansing rains begin to fall, the Hounds of Glory and the Eastern Sky have no time for introspection or fear. They break from the ruins of Urith Barath and launch an overwhelming assault against the scattered orc emplacements in Longshire. There is little coordination to the barbarian resistance. The orcs here live the scattered, selfish lives of brigands. Few of them squat beneath the banner of the Stone Toad - they seem barely to care that the citadel has been destroyed. They also seem unable to understand the scale of the threat facing them.
They close the doors of the stone halls, and the gates of the makeshift palisades they have erected around the ruined towns ... and the Dawnish wash over them in an irresistible wave.
Broken chapter after broken chapter falls before the Dawnish armies. Teams of heavily armoured knights and relentless war witches sweep the ruins after the main force has passed over, rousting out stragglers and would-be assassins from their hidey-holes and hidden cellars, and giving them the only mercy they deserve - a quick death.
At the same time, the Black Thorns explode northwards into Broken Ride. They catch the bulk of the Druj fleeing the fall of the Stone Toad citadel and ruthlessly put an end to them. They skirt the open plains and low hills, scouts spreading out through the trees of the southern Great Forest looking for orcs. There are more signs of active resistance here - especially around the ruins of Exile - but they soon reach the slave-camp that stands where the lumberyards of the Great Forest of Peytaht once stood.
For a moment, it seems that the horror of the Vigilant Swan might be repeated - that the slaves forced to fell the weirwood trees in Broken Ride will be murdered by their bitter Druj captors. Yet the speed of the Black Thorns is not to be underestimated. They have outpaced the news of the fall of Urith Batol, slaughtered the messengers who would have brought confirmation that the Stone Toad has fallen. As a result, the Druj are only just rousing themselves to kill their slaves as the Navarr arrive - and the Scions of Terunael waste no time.
They pour down in a flood of vengeance against the oversees of the Stone Toad. As the Navarr attack, the slaves see their chance. They are tired, broken down, desperate ... and filled with the healing, renewing energy of the magical rain. They rise up en masse, with improvised weapons, throwing themselves at their orc captors. Many are cut down, but the deaths simply fuel their anger and their hate. Better to die on their feet than die on their knees. Some hundred and fifty slaves are liberated, saved not just from death but from the depths of despair.
Not everything goes the Imperial way. Despite the rain, the camp overseer seals herself behind the barricades where the season's harvest of weirwood is stored. Once it is clear the battle is lost, she immolates herself and her inner circle ... and the bounty of weirwood that has been gathered. Despite the rain the fire spreads quickly. Some alchemical essence has clearly been employed that tinges each licking tongue with a sickly green taint and makes it burn hotter in the face of water rather than being quenched by it. It takes all the effort of the tired Navarr and the exhausted slaves to prevent the flames spreading into the forest itself, growing into a conflagration that might devour a vast tract of the ancient forest. Yet they do stop it - not least in part due to the timely arrival of cadres of Dawnish nobles and yeomen send north to support the Navarr advance. This time at least the Druj efforts to poison the well, to stab back at the Empire from the bring of the Howling Abyss, are thwarted.
With Longshire swept clean of orcs, with the Great Forest at Reikos liberated, the two forces converge on Exile. The site of the first atrocity of the Druj invasion when their armies somehow overcame generations of superstition to pass from the Barrens, down through the haunted depths of Peytaht. Exile itself is a twisted parody of what it once was. Once a place of learning, of meditation, it is now an abominable temple dedicated to fear and suffering. The Druj miasma is stronger here. It clings to the wet soil beneath the trees in the form of a physical, rolling mist. There are hints of shapes in the fog. Ghosts. Dead spirits of Highborn soldiers and civilians and oh! so many priests. There are no signs of any bodies, however. The Spring magic that pulses in the rain and the soil allows for no corpses, not this season at least..
The Druj warriors that defend the temple are unfamiliar. They wear dark hoods, wield curved blades, fight in almost total silence - fight like cornered rats. To their credit they stand and fight to the death. They rely on the aura of fear and the darkness beneath the trees ... but it avails them naught in before the might of Dawn, and the keen eyes of the Navarr. Examination of the fallen orcs reveals eerie tattoos, unsettling piercings, lips sewn together with old cord.
There is some debate as to whether it might not be wisest to burn the ruins of Exile to the ground, if that might not put an end to the blasphemy that taints the air itself. In the end, an agreement is reached that the question of what to do with the ruins is not for the Dawnish or the Navarr to make.
With Longshire and Broken Ride liberated, the majority of Reikos is now under Imperial control. There are still orcs in Tamarbode and Grey Charge, but where can they go? West into Casinea and the waiting arms of the Silent Sentinel? South into Bastion, the heart of Highguard? North into Broceliande? There is nowhere for them to hide. There are also some orcs in the Great Forest, and hiding in the ruins of the central plains, but they are scattered and broken - they might continue to plague the people of Reikos as bandits but they are in no position to rise as an organised force.
The land itself has not fared well under Druj dominance. Signs of their occupation are everywhere. The rain has cleansed the Flux, but Reikos itself is ruined. The eastern barbarians have taken their vile pleasure in defiling, corrupting everything they can. For now, though, there is the hope that peace may once again come to Reikos, that flowers might bloom once again in the Garden of Highguard.
This is not the end of the campaign for Reikos; but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.
Reikos has been recaptured by the Empire! A Senator can raise a motion of Assignment during the Winter Solstice and determine which nation the territory will be assigned to. If Reikos is assigned in a timely fashion, it may be possible to elect a senator to represent it (ideally if the assignment passes before the afternoon session of the Imperial Senate on Sunday we should be able to arrange an election).
Regardless, even though two regions (Tamarbode and Grey Charge) are still technically under orc control, Reikos is now an Imperial territory again (which is relevant for use of the Imperial regio at Anvil. The orcs there are scattered and weak. They are unlikely to be able to launch any sort of campaign to reclaim any part of Reikos. Unless a new force enters the frame, perhaps through the Great Forest of Peytaht or out of Broceliande, it is unlikely the Empire will lose Reikos again any time soon.
Both the Vigilant Swan and the Great Forest at Reikos are once again in Imperial hands. Any senator can raise a motion of allocation for one of these two Imperial Bourse seats. The motion can declare that the seat should be either Imperial (auctioned openly on the Bourse, any Imperial citizen may take the seat), or National (appointed by decision of those members of the nation who have appropriate personal resources, on a citizen of that nation can hold the seat).
Now that the territory is Imperial once again, which nation controls the seat if it is made national depends entirely on which nation the territory is assigned to. It is important to note that regardless of whether the Bourse seat was national or Imperial before it was lost to the Druj, the senate has complete freedom to declare either or both of them to be either national or Imperial going forward.
If the Vigilant Swan is allocated in plenty of time, then the civil service will attempt to auction it, or help the nation appoint someone to the position. Whoever takes the seat will keep it until the Summer Solstice 380YE (Event 3-2016) which is when white granite seats are usually appointed or auctioned. The Great Forest at Reikos is a little trickier; there is no production to assign, so even if it is allocated during the Winter Solstice, it will not be auctioned or appointed until Spring at the earliest - and whoever takes the seat will have a shorter tenure than normal as the resource will again be appointed (or auctioned) during the Winter Solstice 380YE (E1-2017) alongside the other weirwood seats.
Finally, the civil service is already assessing spoils of war, and it is likely a list will be submitted to the Military Council during the Winter Solstice. It must be stressed at this point that Reikos is in a parlous state, with much of the population either exiled to other parts of Highguard or simply dead.
The Thunder of the Barrens
Rage Across Dawnguard
They return in force a little less than a month later. This time, there is no talk of peace treaties, or of agreements with the Senate. A single demand for the surrender of the Towers is made, a single command issued to the people of Dawn to either leave Dawnguard, or acknowledge the dominance of the Rhavin and the Peytaht. Needless to say, the Dawnish pay little heed to these demands. Still, captains under the horned lion of House Aureillius and the dagger and sceptr'd key of House Vexille join the garrison at the Towers. The noble houses of Drycastle and the outlying manors gather their knights and their yeomen to their estates. They prepare to fight...
No more demands are issued. Three days later the first attack against the Towers of the Dawn begins. They are still cautious, still testing the Dawnish defences - for the most part. The main thrust of the assault against the Towers of the Dawn is led by the battle-hardened army of the Rhavin. They fight beneath tattered banners made of sewn-together scraps taken as trophies from their hated Druj enemies ... and more than a few tatters that might once have been the banners of questing knights lost in the Barrens. They are well armed, well armoured, and possess a grim determination at odds with their barbaric appearance. Their attacks are focused, sustained, relentless ... and while they pay for their advance with blood, they extract a serious toll from both the castle walls and the human defenders.
While the majority of the orc attempt to capture the fortification, roughly a quarter of their number focus their attentions on the manor houses of Dawnguard. They encounter resistance, of course, and lives are lost on both sides. Yet all three Barrens armies seem to be going out of their way to avoid killing civilians where they can. They leave Dawnish noncombatants plenty of time to withdraw - but they do not hesitate to cut down anyone who tries to take arms against them. With the stubborn refusal of the Dawnish to retreat, and with the garrison at the Towers making them pay for every foot of ground they take, their advance is slow.
Regardless, conquering Dawnguard is clearly not their intent at this time. The bulk of their force focuses on either bringing the Towers of the Dawn under their control, or bringing them down. Neither side escapes without losses. The risky strategy of the Rhavin, and the fact the orcs are fighting a people with little patience for the Barrens, sees to that. Yet as the Winter Solstice grows nearer, it is clear that the Towers of the Dawn have taken significant damage from the orc attacks. The fortification can probably endure another season of siege from the Rhavin and the Great Forest without additional support, but it would be a gamble - especially if the Barrens orcs were to commit completely to the attack.
The independent orcs of the Barrens have come back to attack the Towers of Dawn with renewed force. The fortification is damaged - below half strength easily - but still standing. The towers are currently the only thing standing between the Barrens orcs and the swift conquest of Dawnguard.
The Mists of Liathaven
Tress, Wind, and Fire
As Winter gathers strength and the weather becomes colder, the armies of the Brass Coast enter Liathaven from the north. The Red Wind Corsairs (and their unspeakable unliving horde) continue to march south out of Wintermark, while the fast moving Fire of the South speed up the coast from Feroz, through Tassato into the Marches. The armies join forces in Bregasland, and make a joint push out of the marshes and into the forest.
The Freeborn encounter some resistance from the Jotun - especially the scattered forts defending the barbarian supply lines that connect their territory in the west with their invasion force in the Mournwold. There is no significant threat, but the going is tough and the Jotun defenders fiercely resist the Imperial incursion. With the Red Wind Corsairs more focused on "looting the shit" out of the Jotun, establishing a beach head proves to be a difficult proposition.
Still, the Brass Coast armies persevere. They receive some assistance from scattered Navarr resistance fighters, eager to help the Freeborn deal with the Jotun forces occupying their homelands - and especially eager to help them avoid stumbling into the areas of vallorn infestation that stretch across the middle of the territory. Their concerns on the latter point are probably unnecessary - the Jotun themselves have marked the edge of the vallorn region with taboo markers and other warnings.
The Jotun fall back but, grudgingly. They may not like fighting beneath the trees, but they put up a spirited defence. Without the support of a full Jotun army, however, they can do little but slow the Imperial advance. Regardless of their small numbers, however, the need to establish and protect supply lines as the Freeborn push into Liathaven means that at the end of three months campaigning, the two armies are perhaps halfway through claiming the region of Liath's Ring.
The unliving, shambling horrors that have accompanied the Red Wind Corsairs over the last month finally give up the ghost as the Winter Solstice approaches. At first in handfuls, then in greater numbers, the husks suddenly stop what they are doing, shake and shudder for a moment, and then fall over. A couple, especially ones that have seen the most action, collapse into pieces as past injuries overwhelm their corpus. One or two allegedly explode, showering the Freeborn near them in rot and putrid gore. There have been rumours that Bad Things have accompanied the release of the Winter Spirits when the husks accompanying other armies have failed ... but the Red Wind Corsairs experience no uncanny events. Perhaps the presence of the Vallorn has weakened the spirits bound into the husks? The Navarr resistance fighters think it unlikely, but their superstitious dread of the Vallorn is legendary. A bigger question than the winter spirits is what to do about the sudden problem of a thousand human and orc bodies ...
As the Winter Solstice begins, however, the Brass Coast armies are almost in position to begin laying siege to Mournstead in the east of Liath's Ring, an important albeit minor fortress along the Jotun supply route. If they continue at the current rate, they will most likely liberate Mournstead - and with it the rest of the region - by the start of Spring, after which it should just be a matter of mopping up the remaining Jotun forces ... unless the Jotun take steps to prevent that, of course.
The Freeborn armies in the northern part of the territory are slowly working to create a beachhead, and are suffering all the problems of trying to take a region that is not contiguous with another region controlled by the Empire in the same territory (as discussed here). They have so far been uncontested, and are a little over halfway to freeing Mournstead and taking Liath's Ring.
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The Mourning Wind
The Mirror of War
The Tusks and the Bounders are joined by both Imperial Orc armies and by the Highborn of the Seventh Wave. They mass their forces at Overton, on the Greensward, in the shadow of the almost completed Orchard's Watch. Shortly before dawn a little less than a month after the end of the Autumn Equinox, the Imperial armies line up in the pre-dawn gloom. There is little sound - an order barked here or there, the creak of armour straps, the sound of metal brushing against metal. The banners of the Marches, of the Orcs, and of Highguard snap and crack between the sharp fingers of the chill Mournwold wind.
As the sun begins the crest the horizon, the horns begin the blow. The drums begin to beat. A wordless cheer goes up from the women and men of the Marcher armies, is picked up by the Highborn, and is echoed by the Imperial Orcs.
Imperial forces march out of Overton into the Mournwold. The liberation has begun.
The orcs of the Summer Storm set the pace, with the Tusks and the Winter Sun matching their ferocity. Where the Summer Storm launch focused, sustained attacks deep into Jotun territory, the Winter Sun and the Tusks claim the higher ground, driving the Jotun off the hilltops and into the valleys. The Seventh Wave and the Bounders follow in their wake, cautious only in relation to the energy of the other three armies. The overwhelming energy of the Imperial assault seems to take the Jotun defenders a little off guard.
The barbarian orcs are outnumbered - the Imperial force brought to bear against them is nearly half again their size. They have a fort, it is true - a white granite castle built in the ruins of Sarcombe on the Southmoor, which the Jotun call Hillstop. It is placed to offer strategic control of the approach into Mournwold from Kahraman to the south, keeping a close watch on both Fort Braydon and on Overton. The castle provides them with a sanctuary against the human and orc fire that sweeps our of the Greensward.
There is also a partially completed fortification in the Ore Hills. Sadly for the orcs, their new fortification is not yet completed. Another season and it would have been finished, in spite of the disruption caused in recent months by the heroes of the Empire. As it is though, the Empire's success in their lightning raid into Liathaven has left the Jotun desperately short of the white granite they needed.
The fight for this partially complete castle is vicious - it is here that the Jotun make a stand against the Empire. The blood of orcs and humans both flows freely, turns the good marcher earth to frothy red mud. There is an odd synergy at work here, and odd reflection. Fighting alongside the Marchers, Imperial orcs. Fighting alongside the Jotun, human collaborators. They are mostly young, but they wield their bills and pikes with grim determination. Their bodies are marked with alien tattoos, and they strive to mimic the furs and leather and chain of their orc masters - and it makes more than one eye weep to see a harness of Marcher plate or a notched polearm that has been handed down from father to daughter, from grandmother to son being wielded in the defence of the Mourn ... but by those who have sold their birthright to the orc invaders.
The parallel is more poetic than literal, of course. There are twelve thousand Imperial orcs fighting alongside the Marchers, and barely more than a thousand humans fighting in the Jotun armies. But it stings the soul, it tears at the heart.
The fighting is brutal, raging for two days and well into the night. The turning point comes when one of the Seventh Wave Unconquered is able to take down the commander of the partially completed forts with an arrow to the eye. She pays for her bold action with her life, and the commander is soon back on her feet again, but the loss of direction at a crucial point allows the Empire to overrun some of the Jotun defensive positions, lets the rest of the Seventh Wave clear some of the stakes breaking up the Marcher formations ... and the tide of battle shifts.
In the end, the orcs are forced to fall back. Their banners dip and turn, their forces retreating north and west. Towers, bears, mountains driven before the boars, and the dolmen, the lightning and the frost, and the curving wave.
The Empire quickly consolidates its territorial gains and turns its attention north. While the Bounders and the Seventh Wave secure the Ore hills, the Tusks and the Imperial Orcs push north into Freemoor. There is further strong resistance from the Jotun, especially those under the mountain banner. Here, though, the Tusks find Marchers ready to fight on their side. A raggle-taggle bunch it is true - sons and daughters of the men and women who chose to stay on their land, chose to stay and farm, rather than flee north to live as exiles in Mitwold and Upwold. They are but a handful, barely two-score compared to the strength of the collaborators the Imperials have already faced. They are unused to war, untrained for it. But a fire of rebellion burns in their hearts. They have been raised on tales of the strength of the Marches, and the Jack that bound all the people together under one banner. They hunger for it, as a starving beggar hungers for bread. They say they are not alone, they are sure there will be others who will also take up fight, once they are convinced that freedom is at hand.
The battle for Freemoor shifts in the Empire's favour slowly. The Jotun fall back, again. Their tactics are defensive, designed to minimise the casualties they take. Rather than stand against the joyous savagery of the Tusks and the Imperial orcs, they fall back. Slowly, the Imperial forces claim back the land.
As the Winter Solstice approaches, the Empire has claimed the Ore Hills, and a made some headway toward liberating Freemoor. Another season like this, and they will have secured the entire eastern border of the Mournwold, a fence of Imperial flesh and steel between the Jotun and the rich city of Tassato. The treachery of the Empire has clearly caught the Jotun unprepared - their force here lacks the strength to hold off the Imperial armies. Their entire strategy seems to be about delaying the Empire. Perhaps the returning Seventh Wave scouts can shed some light on their greater strategy.
Regardless. For the first time in a generation, armed Marchers stride the hills and moors of the Mournwold and the Jotun invader falls back before them.
The Empire has liberated the Ore Hills region. In the process, they have also captured the partially constructed fortification the Jotun were building in the region. The castle has been damaged during the battle to secure it, of course, but it is the opinion of those engineers who accompany the armies that it could be completed in six months, at the cost of forty white granite and ten Thrones. If the job were completed, the castle would be a rank one fortification. The Empire will need to move quickly however; at the moment it is providing no defensive advantage, and if the region changes hands again with the construction in its current state there is a good chance it might be completely destroyed.
The Imperial troops have also made some progress in liberating Freemoor - a little under half the region is now in their hands.
As the Winter Solstice begins, the last work on Orchard's Watch is completed, and a fortification rises to mirror the Jotun castle in Southmoor.
The Rage of the Jotun
The Blood-dimmed Tide
Shortly before the Freeborn begin their attack on northern Liathaven, perhaps forty thousand Jotun warriors enter Western Scout and Beacon Point. They come north out of the hills of Reinos, and east out of the southern Jotun kingdom of Narkyst. They pour through the trees like a river, like a flood of orcs. They methodically and systematically smash every steading they encounter. Most are captured and adapted to serve the needs of the orcs. Some are left burnt-out ruins. The fortified steading at Beacon Point, for example, is burnt to the ground after a two-day siege by the army of under the banner of the Southern Bear.
Very few steadings manage to hold out against the Jotun, primarily due to their remote position within the territory. It is only a matter of time before they fall, however. The Navarr of southern Liathaven have been too isolated from the Empire for too long, by the vallorn and by the bandit-haunted mountains of northern Kahraman. They put up a spirited defence, but without the support of a significant number of troops they cannot hope to endure the withering assault of the Jotun.
When they came east into Liathaven for the first time, the Jotun allowed their enemies to flee before them. While they did not offer the Navarr the choice to join the Jotun as thralls or as foot soldiers - they did not go out of their way to slaughter them. This time, some of the Jotun armies are actively butchering any Navarr they can catch. Survivors report that there is a rage in the orcs that they have not seen before, and it devours anyone they catch. Whole steadings are put to the sword. Stridings torn apart when the Jotun catch them on the road. The Jotun are not the Druj - they do not engage in torture or torment, not even to gather information. They simply dispatch any Navarr they catch without ceremony.
The trees help; there are places survivors can go, where they can hide. But if the Jotun continue to occupy Liathaven it is surely only a matter of time before even those scattered survivors are caught and killed.
In a little less than two months, southern Liathaven has gone dark. There are surely Navarr still there, but they are either fleeing or hiding. There are rumours of a large group of survivors gathering somewhere in the very south-east of the territory. They may attempt to push through the mountains into Kahraman, but if they do so they will potentially be easy picking for any organised group of bandits, orc or otherwise.
The Haven of Liath
The Vallorn of Liathaven slumbers, wrapped tight around the ruins of Liath Haven.
To follow on from the Mists of Liathaven...
In the south, a massive Jotun invasion force has taken both Western Scout and Beacon Point. In the process, they have destroyed the fortified steading at Beacon Point.
This means that the Jotun now control all the regions of Liathaven, making it a fully conquered barbarian territory. The immediate effect of this is that all Imperial personal resources based in the territory will lose a half of their production until such time as at least one region is back in Imperial control. This also means that the territory counts as being in the control of the Jotun, meaning they can move into, out of, and through the entire territory freely. ... up to a point.
It is worth explicitly pointing out that we treated this battle as two separate theatres due to the presence of the Vallorn that neatly bisects the territory. The Jotun forces in the south cannot reach the northern regions without forcing their way through either Liath's Heart or Westwood, which would mean an encounter with the unknown quantity that is the vallorn. The same is true of any Imperial forces on the northern side of the hedge of malignant landscape.
Any player character steadings based in Liathaven who wish to have had their settlement conquered or destroyed by the Jotun should consider contacting firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss options going forward. Other steadings are considered to have been far enough off the main Jotun invasion routes to avoid destruction for the time being.
Ian Horne has recorded several of the Winds of War as audio files: