380YE Autumn Equinox winds of war
- 1 Overview
- 2 Retribution
- 3 Our Neighbour's Field
- 4 Fruits of Our Labour
- 5 The Greatest Weapon (Interlude)
- 6 Audacity
- 7 Loyalty to Great Things
- 8 The Price is Consequence
- 9 Other Information
The Navarr army of the Black Thorns continues their efforts to liberate southern Liathaven, leaving the Jotun with a clear lesson as to the repercussions of their actions in the south-western forests. In Kahraman just south-east of Liathaven, during a series of bloody conflicts the Empire drives the Jotun forces westward, recapturing Serra Briante, but the Jotun manage to hold on to their foothold in Serra Damata. By contrast, the defenders of the Mournwold suffer a crushing defeat, forced to retreat to nearby Tassato and leave the orcs in undisputed control of the territory - and the castle of Orchard's Watch.
In the south, the Valiant Pegasus can only look on helplessly as the Freeborn Storm clashes with a massive Grendel armada off the cost of Necropolis. Outnumbered and outclassed, nearly a fifth of the Imperial navy is destroyed in two engagements with the orc warships.
In the west, in Reikos, the Urizen army of the Citadel Guard attempt to drive out the supernatural presence that has taken root there. Their progress is slow, and grows slower as the season passes. The end result is inconclusive.
As Summer pales into Autumn, the Navarr raise the banner of Thorns. The warriors of Navarr flock to fight with them, both those from the other forests and the survivors of the Jotun's rage. The Senate has ensured that there are plenty of weapons and armour to equip them. Their numbers swollen by new recruits, they are further bolstered by the forces of thirty Navarr captains, and half a dozen Imperial heroes of other nations, who bring with them an additional two and a half thousand troops.
Even the dead rise to fight the enemies of the Navarr. The Jotun raise burial mounds over those they honour, but they have left the bodies of the dead Navarr where they fell - a fatal mistake. On the last night of the Summer Solstice, a thousand murdered Navarr rise to heed the echoing call of Winter magic. Shambling; abominable; hungry for orc flesh; thirsty for orc blood; they howl for vengeance against those who slaughtered them, slew their families, burnt their steadings, scattered their stridings. They are terrible.
... the Black Thorns will utterly destroy
any Jotun they come across.
Yet even they are not so terrible as the living. The Navarr who still breathe launch ruthless, terrifying attacks against the orcs. They fall upon the hated enemy with cruel, savage attacks that leave no room for mercy on either side. The bodies of the fallen orcs are despoiled, displayed as trophies to fill the faltering hearts of their foe with terror. Wherever they are victorious they make grisly scarecrows of the fallen orcs - providing a fearsome lesson to the Jotun as to what it really means to face the full fury of the Navarr, unleashed at last.
The anger of the Jotun falters. As it is, only token forces remain in Liathaven - scattered warbands hunting the remaining defenders through the trees. It becomes clear as the Black Thorns advance that these warbands are unprepared for the cunning of the Navarr. They present little challenge - their tactics are better suited to pitched battles than to the relentless, unending guerilla assault of seven thousand mobile Navarr and their unliving cohort. A weak-seeming band of stragglers turns on the warband that pursues them as the trees sprout archers like murderous fruit. A poorly defended steading proves too ripe a prize to resist ... only for the Jotun to discover the token garrison has faded away and now they are surrounded by an army of Navarr. A "routing" band of Navarr ambushers leads the unsuspecting Jotun into the vallorn miasma then fades into the shadows as the orcs fall to packs of shrieking husks.
The darkness that the Jotun have always feared lurks beneath the trees has come alive, and their warbands are no match for it. Their warriors learn that when they fight these heirs of Terunael, they will not fall in heroic combat but will be slain unawares, butchered like sheep, oblivious to the danger until it is too late. They will not rest beneath burial mounds, but will hang rotting from the trees of the forest, torn apart and defiled utterly. Their certainty that their heroism will carry them across the howling abyss begins to falter. Anger at last begins to give way to fear.
The western orcs pull back, retreating first to Western Point and thence to Hordalant and Reinos. They refuse the tempting lures placed before them, withdraw rather than attack, and as the Autumn Equinox approaches they begin to quit southern Liathaven altogether rejoining the Jotun forces fighting elsewhere, in less terrifying terrain. They fall back where they see movement among the trees, where there is any hint of Navarr forces. The Jotun do not like to fight beneath the dark canopy of the forests at the best of times ... and this is very far from the best of times for the orcs.
Within six weeks of the end of the Solstice, Beacon Point is liberated. The Black Thorns and their allies - both living and dead - push on to Western Scout There is some scattered resistance ... and during the day the Jotun hold their own. But when night falls, the orcs die, alone and afraid, voiceless, in the dark.
Game Information : Liathaven
The Navarr have liberated one region of Liathaven (Beacon Point) and made significant gains in a second (Western Scout). If the situation does not change the Navarr will have liberated the whole of southern Liathaven by the Winter Solstice, breaking the Jotun control of the territory and making it once again a contested territory. Furthermore, thanks to their liberation and control of the paths of Lan Thúven, they will be in a position to strike into West Ranging to permanently sever the Jotun supply lines into the Mournwold.
In the face of the Navarr's terror-tactics, a significant number of orcs are quitting Liathaven without fighting, reinforcing Jotun armies elsewhere. It remains to be seen how significant this reinforcement might seem. This special order was the result of an opportunity for the Navarr to employ vicious tactics against their enemies to increase their ability to drive the Jotun out of Liathaven - it may or may not remain available to them if they choose to strike into northern liathaven and complete the liberation of the territory.
Our Neighbour's Field
The Citadel Guard march from Spiral to the verdant chaos of Reikos. The magic that has transformed the Highborn territory has not yet run its course. Scattered across Reikos are loci where the transformative magic is still breaking down the last ruins of the Druj occupation, but they do not impede the progress of the Urizen forces as they march north and west toward their ultimate destination - the newly forested region of Tamarbode claimed by the eternal Llofir, via its herald Gilean.
Outside of Tamarbode, the more supernatural effects of the Spring magic that has consumed the territory are beginning to fade. The fungi and moulds, their purpose completed, are dying and rotting and being replaced with fresh new growth. The trees that replace them grow with preternatural speed, it is true, but for the most part they appear quite normal - no doubt grown from seeds that had laid dormant in the ruined soil during the Druj occupation. The ruins of Chalcis Mount, Haros Water, Longshire, and Riverwatch are gone. In their place, untouched greenery flourishes.
In Tamarbode, however, the magic is still very much alive and busy about its own business. A living green forest covers the entire region, a viridian wall made rainbow by a hundred exotic species of mushroom and toadstool. Spores hang like heavy fog in the air, and here and there truly immense mushrooms push up through the canopy toward the open sky.
The Urizen army pushes calmly forward, balancing a desire to conquer Tamarbode with the need for caution in the face of an unknown threat. Almost immediately they encounter resistance - but it is a slow kind of resistance that comes as much from the supernatural terrain as from any conscious opposition.
First the spores that hang heavy in the air must be dealt with - wet cloths across the mouth and nose work well enough but must be constantly refreshed. Some of the troops find even this insufficient, suffering extreme allergic reactions to the air itself, being forced to fall back from the fecund madness that has claimed Tamarbode. Those who are exposed to the air for too long fall suddenly ill. Hallucinations claim some of them, making it impossible for them to tell the reality of the living jungle from the fantasies inside their heads. Others begin to suffer difficulty breathing, to the point where any exertion becomes impossible and they must be transported back to fresher air and safer woodlands outside Tamarbode. In neither case do these reactions prove fatal, but they slow the advance of the Citadel Guard just as much as the thick undergrowth.
There is some shadow of the Spring realm at work here that attacks the tools, weapons, and armour of the soldiers pressing into the mysterious kingdom that Llofir has claimed. Straps come loose, wooden hafts are eaten through by parasites and opportunistic fungus, even metal is not spared becoming prey to weird rust-like growths that hungrily devour iron and steel.
Not all the obstacles encountered in Tamarbode are so passive. The plants themselves seem to resent the presence of the Imperial forces, and conspire against them. In a few cases, some of the trees themselves appear possessed of a jealous sapience and the ability to move their branches at least - although there are no sightings of actual mobile trees such as those that besieged Holberg. Mostly it is just roots catching and twisting ankles, or branches tangling in cloaks and hair ... although that said there are a few cases where something that seemed at first to be great tree leans forward with a bestial roaring noise and attempts to crush a soldier or four in coiling meaty tendrils.
Then there are the new inhabitants of the region, which are encountered with increasing frequency as the Urizen get closer to the centre of the region. They appear to come in three basic shapes. Small, mostly cowardly creatures that flee before the Urizen advance. Human sized guerillas that strike from hiding and either seek to bear individual soldiers away or spray caustic or madness-inducing spores before retreating back into the undergrowth. Large, mammoth-sized horrors that provide a significant threat, usually accompanied by a score of the human- or child-sized entities.
Behind it all, an awareness of some sentience that seems to be profoundly aware of the disposition of the Citadel Guard throughout Tamarbode, and that directs the relatively weak defenders to impede and harass them as they move forward towards the heart, toward the earthwork scholars call "The Sign of Tamar."
The Urizen advance is slow, and by the time the Autumn Equinox draws near, it is not complete. The captains estimate they have recaptured a little over half the region - much of the same land that the Wolves of War claimed during their attempt to drive the orcs out of Tamarbode before their swift flight to Sarvos in the wake of the Grendel invasion. There are also signs that the resistance here is increasing - and quiet concerns about how much that resistance might increase once the Equinox rolls around.
At the moment, there is no significant opposition to the Urizen army. Any "casualties" quickly recover once removed from the weird forested region with no permanent damage done. Provided that there is no significant response from Lofir to this invasion of the region claimed by the eternal then the Citadel Guard should have conquered Tamarbode and cleared out the remaining supernatural defenders by the Winter Solstice.
Fruits of Our Labour
... circumstances of loyalty and pride overtake prosperity ...
strike with an overwhelming assault on the Jotun filth who
have taken our homeland. Be first on the field, be the boldest,
be the finest, kill the Jotun by their hundred ... remember Segura,
be Segura once more ...
After the solstice, a significant portion of the Imperial forces that had been defending Kahraman withdraw - some to the Mournwold, some to other parts of the Empire. Only the Fist of the Mountains and the Red Wind Corsairs stay to defend the remainder of the Freeborn hills from the Jotun - but they are replaced by armies drawn from across the Empire. The Fire of the South fresh from furlough in Weirwater; the Hounds of Glory and the Wolves of War from the debacle at Sarvos; and several armies previously engaged with the Jotun in Mournwold (the Bounders, the Quiet Step, and the orcs of the Summer Storm) converge on Kharaman. Over thirty-five thousand Imperial troops, supported by a little over three thousand additional troops lead by independent captains, face a roughly equivalent force of barbarian orcs.
There is a time for cunning tricks of war, and a time to raise
our courage to the heights demanded by necessity. We face
savage brutes so we meet their savagery with Virtue. We charge
to the hills of Serra Briante and throw back the Jotun
like a cheap Mestran wine.
This season however, the garrison at Fort Braydon is cut off from the main force of troops due to enemy action during the Solstice. The Jotun armies make no effort to invade Braydon's Jasse, instead throwing their strength towards the conquest of Gambit and Jade Range, seeking to outmaneuver the Empire and bring the territory under their control as quickly as possible. By contrast, the Imperial forces drive forward into Serra Briante and Serra Damata, totally committed to crushing the Jotun forces and driving them out of the Brass Coast. The orcs are overjoyed, meeting the Imperial charge with a charge of their own. The first clash of forces, in the dry plains below Serra Briante sees two great waves of soldiers crashing together into a great sea of slaughter, heroism, glory, and savagery.
The Dawnish forces of the Hounds of Glory take the vanguard, and if their unexpected presence on the battlefield gives the Jotun pause they do not show it. The dry fields gulp down the blood of humans and orcs alike, and as the sun sets the Jotun cede the field, falling back to their camps around the mine itself. It is a small victory ... but a victory nonetheless.
... slaughter any and all Jotun and thrall forces without mercy.
Despoil corpses and camps to remind them they hate us
because they fear us.
The Jotun treat their dead and the Imperial dead with respect. There is a strange détente, supported by the Wintermark and Dawnish forces, allowing the ghodi and the Imperial priests to claim the bodies of the fallen. Only the Navarr of the Quiet Step refuse to participate; at every opportunity they despoil the bodies of the fallen, seeking to send a message to the Jotun - and to their fellows fighting in Liathaven, no doubt.
Over the next months, the Jotun push into the southern regions is blunted almost entirely. Wherever they try to advance, they find the Empire - not in defensive positions as they clearly expected, but on the offensive. By attacking, it seems that the Imperial generals have stymied at least part of the Jotun strategy - and whatever their plan was, it is quickly abandoned in the face of strike after strike against Serra Briante. While a tower of ice and black iron still watches over the Damatian Cliffs, there is no matching citadel to protect the mithril mine. The Jotun are able to hold for a time, but their tactics are not those of a defender but of a conqueror. While many of the engagements are won by the Empire, enough go to the Jotun that the dead litter the hills like fallen leaves.
... we will treat the fallen Jotun with honour and build
mounds over their dead as they have done to ours.
The last battle at the Great Mine of Briante sees the Jotun make use of the old Navarr warning beacons, burning golden flames to send news of their defeat west to the forces camped in Serra Damata. Grudgingly, carefully, the Jotun pull into the hills. A token force secures the Great Mine, and then the rest of the Imperial host follow the Jotun, giving them no respite.
Another great battle rages outside the walls of Briante, the town that gives the valley its name. The Jotun are again forced to pull back, but the damage done to the town is extensive. Inside, a horror. Every Navarr prisoner old enough to wield a weapon that the Jotun have taken during their campaign in Kharaman - including many refugees from Liathaven seeking shelter among the Freeborn of Briante - have been executed and their bodies piled up like cordwood in the town square. Nearly a hundred men and women, all dead. A single Navarr guide is left alive, shackled to a post. Through tears, the guide haltingly passes a message from the Jotun to the thorns of the Quiet Step. "They say this is the answer to the murder of thralls." The priest's face is set as the message is delivered, and there is no hint of accusation in the words.
The Jotun have finally shown us respect, so we will show them our respect
for their strength by meeting them head on! March on and earn our legend.
Cut them down and take back the Empire's Land, our land!
While the Empire liberates Serra Briante, the campaign is far from over. Another four weeks of brutal warfare sees the Jotun finally, grudgingly forced out of Serra Briante entirely, and pushed ever westwards towards Reinos and the Lasambrian Hills.
The final battles of the season takes place in the town of Damata, in the shadow of the glacial citadel of Cathan Canae. Yet the Jotun clearly have no interest in a drawn-out siege. They face the Imperial forces in the open, albeit supported by the servants of the Queen of Ice and Darkness. Massive orc-like warriors in fur and leather, marked with spiral tattoos, hurl their deadly barbed spears down from the walls on any who come too close. A courageous attempt to force the gate of the citadel ends in disaster, leaving dozens slain or maimed. All told, the servants of Cathan Canae and their grim citadel kill some two hundred Imperial soldiers before the armies fall back. Without the presence of the magical fortress, the Empire would almost certainly have driven the Jotun out of Serra Damata entirely.
Bounders will do what bounders do best. The Mourn can hold fast but think
not your seed will be left to grow soft standing at Overton. Onwards to Kahraman,
where the battle is bloodiest, and our bows be kept warm for when we return to
our lands. This will be our bloody drill for the Mourn... let the arrows fly!
The extent of the cost in orc and human lives for this wild, bloody campaign is hard to conceive. The Jotun bury the Imperials alongside their own dead, when they are given the chance. Some soldiers are simply maimed, or lose their will to fight, rather than being counted among the fallen. At the end of the season, though, it is estimated that between the Jotun and the Imperials there are ten thousand warriors - the equivalent of two entire armies - who will never fight again.
The Empire has won, for sure, but the cost has been great. As the Autumn Equinox dawns, there is an opportunity to catch a few quiet moments to reflect. There is every indication that they continue to enjoy the support of Cathan Canae, as her tower of ice and iron shows no sign of melting or returning to the Summer Realm. There is no sign that the Jotun are planning to give up the Damatian Cliffs any easier than they ceded control of Briante and the Great Mine, and every sign that their numbers are being reinforced by warbands fleeing Liathaven, and by the strange orcs of the high peaks.
Game Information : Kahraman
In the end, the Empire liberates Serra Briante and dominates over half of the Damatian hills.
The Great Mine of Briante is now back in Imperial hands. The Imperial Senate may choose to allocate the mine as either an Imperial resource, or a Brass Coast national seat (chosen by vote of the Freeborn fleet owners). Because the Bourse seat has changed hands it is possible to change how it is appointed, and there are already rumblings of interest in parts of the Brass Coast in seeing this resource in Freeborn territory be controlled by the Freeborn. The Jotun have already claimed the mithril bounty from the mine for this season, however, which means that regardless of the Senate decision, it will not be actually appointed until Winter at the earliest ... assuming the Empire still controls it.
The Greatest Weapon (Interlude)
Some people in the south say that insight is the greatest weapon. Others say that knowledge is a power in its own right. Even where the Empire is not engaged in brutal conflict against its enemies, there are events of note.
Standoff in Spiral
During the Summer Solstice, the Empire struck against the Grendel defending Ossuary and gave them a thorough thrashing. Forced to retreat in disarray, the orcs leave an opening for the Imperial forces to swoop in and claim not only the mithril mine but the entire region - and with it the territory of Spiral. With intelligence gained through heroic action, the generals discovered that the Grendel armies were being ordered to defend rather than launch an offensive over the coming season and made their plans accordingly.
... We have bought this ground with blood,
and with blood we will hold it! Stand fast, stand firm!
Spiral is an Imperial territory. The Eastern Sky, Green Shield, and Northern Eagle defend the four northern and western regions, while the still very significant Grendel presence occupies the south and the east. They defend Apstrus, Apulus, and Screed (where stands the sinister Black Plateau) with at least the same fervour that the Empire defends Ateri, Cinion, Ankra, and Ossuary.
In the absence of further conflict, reports of eerie dreams among the sensitive decline rapidly. Urizen illuminates report that the Black Plateau appears to be settling down again. The rumbles of thunder and hate that have been observed in recent seasons quieten down... but do not fall entirely silent.
Spies in Sarvos
The Highborn army of the Seventh Wave, fresh from their engagement in Kharaman, come to Sarvos with a grim intent. They stand vigilant against any potential threat from the sea, and concentrate on restoring some of the losses they have suffered fighting against the Jotun in the west. Some of their Unconquered scouts also set about carefully exploring the League territory for signs of an alleged network of spies. So far they have reported no success - but at the same time there has been no impediment to their ability to re-equip and resupply.
Silence in the Marshes
Again this season, powerful magical citadels rise in Kallavesa and Bregasland. Mists and briars, trees and marsh beasts alike work to protect the marshes of Wintermark and Bregasland. Their protection proves unneccessary. No orc forces enter Bregasland, and the Jotun forces pushing into Kallavesa first pause in their advance, and then they march back across the border to the west. Not all the Jotun leave - they still have the beginnings of a beachead in West March that will need to be rooted out. But there is no further immediate threat to the sacred lakes of the Winterfolk.
Slaughter in Astolat
The army of shambling unliving husks that emerged from the Semmerlak into Weirwater does not stay in Weirwater. Rather than entering Semmerholm, the army turns aside at the last minute and marches westward through the southern forests and hills, through Hawksmoor and Weirmoor, and enters Winterborne just north of the town of Weaving in Astolat.
The witches of Weaving take one look at this army of stumbling cadavers and sound the alarm. As the first stories of the bloodthirsty unliving horrors preying on farmers and travelers, they rouse the Golden Axe, and the defenders of Castle of Thorns. The Varushkan army is spending a season near the tourney grounds of Laroc, being entertained and resupplied by the artisans and magicians of Spiral Castle, and responds quickly to the threat to the Dawnish people. Varushkan warriors, Dawnish witches, and the yeoman garrison of the Castle immediately march north to the defence of Weaving.
The abominations are utterly outclassed. Between the total commitment of the Varushkan army to defending Astolat, and the looming presence of Castle Astolat, the cadaverous forces are completely outmatched. The wily Varushkans kill as many as a tenth of the horrors and inflict crippling injuries on many more. yet before the army flees back into Weirwater, they account for some two hundred Varushkan soldiers many of them torn apart and their flesh consumed by the monstrous host before they can be driven off.
The lifeless horde retreat, but the damage is done. What should have been a relaxing visit to Astolat for the Golden Axe has been viciously interrupted. The Varushkans harry the unliving forces back to the borders and then stand a vigilant watch over them for the rest of the season, supported by weavers from the nearby Dawnish town and sentries from the Castle of Thorns, but the haunted legion out of Karsk makes no effort to return and appears to be camped now in the woods of south-western Weirwater far from any significant Imperial settlement.
Game Information: Astolat
Due to the presence of the unliving army, the Golden Axe has not received any resupply this season - neither natural, nor the benefits of working with the people of Spiral Castle. Worse, they have actually suffered additional casualties. Furthermore, the benefits of Brotherhood of Tian - which rely on the target being able to receive natural resupply - are lost.
The Grendel have run away for too long.
Now is the time to bloody their nose! ...
We missed them in Sarvos, now we will take no quarter!
The Freeborn Storm sweeps east along the coast from Sarvos, through Necropolis, hunting Grendel. The warships of the Freeborn navy are supported and reinforced by over forty independent Imperial captains, their swift vessels more manoeuvrable than the larger ships they accompany. Over half of them hail from anchorages in the Brass Coast, but there are ships from Wintermark and the Marches, from Urizen and Varushka and Naarr, and even a fleet whose captain calls distant Skarsind home.
The thick, unnatural fog still clings to the waters of the Bay of Catazar, as it has done for the past year. Most of the ships' crews have become inured to its eerie effulgence, and as it clings close to the water rarely rising high enough to spill onto the deck of a warship, they give it little mind. Still, it plays odd tricks and occasionally interferes with communication between vessels in the fleet. Phantom lights, and even the occasional eerie ghostly ship are spotted when the sun goes down and the fog begins to glow faintly under the light of the moon. It does not help that Necropolis is subject to the eerie phenomena of the empty sky - that once the sun sets the stars which have so often proved the friend of the sailor cannot be seen. A few of the more superstitious consider it a bad omen. Still, the navy is never of out sight of the Highborn shore. The lighthouses that dot the coast provide welcome beacons on the darkest nights, helping the less manoeuvrable warships avoid dangerous rocks and reminding the crews that they are never far from home no matter how isolated the dark skies may make them feel.
The plan is to catch the Grendel navies in Spiral by surprise and deliver them a crippling defeat while their attention is focused on the land battle. Unfortunately, as the flotilla of Imperial ships rounds Rebekah's Leap into Redoubt, it becomes apparent that things are not going to unfold as the Empire expects.
Coming the other way around the headland is an immense Grendel armada.
It is more than twice the size of the Freeborn Storm, even allowing for the presence of so many independent captains. A plethora of warships with blood-red, bile-yellow, and sea-green sails crewed by thousands of hard-bitten orc mariners, rigged for war, speed toward the Imperial navy. The wine-dark waters below that haunted bluff become the scene for the first ever major naval engagement between the Grendel and the Empire.
The Battle of Rebekah's Leap begins when a fleet of fast moving orc vessels pull ahead of the main flotilla, red sails set for speed, and engage the swift corsair vessels belonging to House Taziel and the House of Ezmara. A storm of grapples; a flurry of arrows and bolts; and then the ships are locked and boarding planks dropped into place and blood begins to flow. Moments later, the two navies wash over and around them, their conflict serving as the centre point to the biggest naval battle in living memory.
From the start, it is clear that the Empire is outmatched. They are badly outnumbered, and the Grendel crews are simply more experienced at engaging in ship-to-ship combat on such a scale. The Imperial fleets are more manoeuvrable but no match for a Grendel naval vessel; the Empire's warships are powerful, but they are also ungainly and slower to react to the ebb and flow of the sea battle than their orc opposite numbers. It is almost certainly a blessing that the Grendel navy appears to consist solely of warships - if the Grendel had brought a contingent of their own independent captains with them then the Empire would be in even more serious trouble.
There is also magic at play. The difficulty of coordinating Imperial vessels does not appear to be one experienced by the Grendel. Many of their warships seem to possess preternatural ability to spot and exploit weaknesses or circumstances. They are difficult to outmaneuver, almost impossible to take unawares. The magicians aboard the Imperial ships are left in little doubt that they are observing powerful enchantments of the realm of Day or perhaps Autumn, the make the Grendel armada even more deadly.
The Empire is outclassed, but it is not incapable. Many Grendel ships are sent to the bottom, or set aflame, or have their rigging and sails crippled. At one point a band of Winterfolk board one of the three-masted orc warships with greataxes and manage to chop two of the masts down before they are forced back to their own ships, leaving the vessel easy prey.
Unfortunately, the undeniable fact is that the Grendel armada is better than the Imperial navy. Nearly a fifth of the Empire's warships are sunk or immobilised. As twilight approaches, the captains have no choice but to sound the retreat - horns blaring, drums beating, flag-speakers frenziedly gesticulating on the prow of their vessels. The fury of the Freeborn Storm has met the rock of the Grendel armada and been repulsed. They pull back into Necropolis, grimly aware of the dark fate that awaits the crew of any ship left behind. Death might be preferable to slavery at the unkind hands of the Grendel.
Over the next few days the navy regroups with its allied vessels quickly and efficiently - and just in time. The Grendel armada follows the Imperial Navy into Necropolis, and the Battle of the Pharos begins in the waters below the cliffs atop which the Necropolis stands. The Valiant Pegasus are garrisoned here, protecting the tombs of the Thrones and the homes of the Highborn people. They are forced to watch, helpless, as the maritime battle rages below them - even their great catapults and trebuchet are unable to propel stones far enough to be a factor in the battle.
The surviving Imperial mariners have been seasoned by the Battle of Rebekah's Leap. The initial enthusiasm for the battle has gone; the mistakes of treating it like an engagement with pirates, are not repeated.
But the Empire loses again, forced to sound another retreat. This time the Grendel do not pursue. As Autumn Equinox approaches, there are scattered engagements between Imperial vessels and orc ships testing each other, but no decisive battles. Each force keeps careful watch to ensure no ships sneak past them, neither side completely controls the waters of Necropolis, but there are serious concerns that a second season of naval engagement will go no better for the Empire.
Yet ... it could have been worse. Sharp eyed corsairs notice that many of the Grendel ships showed signs of existing damage - hastily repaired rigging, patched sails, caulked hulls. A few of the boarding parties talk of splintered wood and oddly scorched decks. One of the Navarr is first to offer an explanation - these are ships that have been exposed to the angry fury of the sea, raised by Imperial magicians. Perhaps some solace may lie the knowledge that it could have been worse. Some solace. Perhaps.
Game Information : Bay of Catazar
Auditor of the Imperial Treasury, Gerard La Salle has prepared a report for the Admiral on the strategic situation created by two rival naval forces being in the same territorial waters, to be presented during the Autumn Equinox.
Loyalty to Great Things
Not a step back, that is our rallying cry ...
Do you want to say you were there when
the Mourn was lost for good? I don't.
Let's give them hell!
During the Summer Solstice, the defenders of the Empire fought hard to oppose an attack by the Jotun and their Eternal allies against the Singing Caves north of Overton. The battle was hard fought, but the Imperial heroes were victorious. This quick response, and their defeat of several powerful orc champions on the battlefield, seemed to give the Jotun pause. It also ensured that the Jotun would need to fight - and fight hard - if they wanted to claim the final acres of the Mournwold.
In the first weeks after the Solstice, the Empire rearranges its forces. Of the armies that fought the Jotun offensive before the Solstice, only the Drakes remain, garrisoned in Orchard's Watch. They are joined by the Tusks and the Winter Sun from Kahraman, and - after a brutal forced march west out of Highguard - by the Strong Reeds and the Granite Pillar. The generals of the Tusks and the Winter Sun develop the Empires defensive strategy with the aid of the powerful insights granted by the Urizen magicians of the Auric Horizon and the Netherwatch Delegation. A little over twenty thousand Imperial troops, give or take, clustered in the Greensward around Orchard's Watch. A scattering of resistance fighters from the Mourn have come to join them, including a band of friars and laypersons who have risked much to travel down from the Whittle Hill to offer spiritual support to the defenders. The walls of Orchard Watch are strong, but are they strong enough?
...ensure that the Highborn stand
shoulder to shoulder with the Tusks.
Arrayed against them, an ocean of Jotun. Their campfires are numberless, spreading like a blanket of red stars over the north-western Greensward, and across Ore Hills and Southmoor. Rough estimates suggest around thirty thousand orc warriors, perhaps as many as ten thousand of that number being made up of the retinues of great Jotun champions who fight this season under the banner of the Mandowla's Roar. They are supported by the garrisons of Hillstop and the Tribute, and by several thousand glorious elfin knights and goblinborn yeofolk proudly displaying the crimson-and-gold lion device of their eternal Queen, Eleonaris, Mistress of the Fields of Glory.
We shall stand, shoulder-to-shoulder,
with the Granite Pillar.
The Empire's plan is straightforward enough: deny the Jotun another inch of Marcher soil. The soldiers of the Tusks and the Granite Pillar in particular prepare themselves for whatever the Jotun might throw at them, their captains discussing possible offensive strategies and the tactics that might be used to defeat them.
The Jotun appear to be waiting. Small groups of restless warriors test the Imperial lines, especially those red-and-black orcs of the Corazón clan who still seem to want to prove themselves to their Jotun allies. Yet no significant offensive takes place. At first, the optimistic watchers on the walls of Orchard Watch hope that this is a sign that the Jotun, too, are defending the land they already hold. Perhaps the courage of the Imperial heroes in blunting their offensive against the Singing Caves has made the Jotun uncertain.
Older, wiser heads shake sadly when they hear this opinion expressed. They know that the Jotun have coveted Overton and the Singing Caves, coveted the Greensward, for far too long to delay when it is in their grasp.
Just shy of a month since the end of the Summer Solstice, as the full moon rises for the first time over Southmoor and Ore Hills, a disturbance runs through the Jotun forces. Drums are beaten, horns are blown. Here and there the orc campfires blossom into full-fledged bonfires. The alarm is sounded, the forces outside the castle walls look to their defences, brace themselves for a night attack ...
... we march to the Mourn... honouring
the fallen in the everwatching gaze
of the ancestors. As heroes of the
Empire, we stand defiant of our Jotun
foe. They are no match for the cunning
of the first legion and in Thrace's name
we make our stand.
... but no attack comes, not during the darkness.
The next morning, the keen eyed watchers in the high towers of Orchard's Watch report the presence of a massive new Jotun force among those spread out to the north and east. Their warning is late. The captains of the Tusks and the Winter Sun, alerted to the shift in the enemy deployments by the power of their enchantments, have already been up for hours discussing possible tactics with the strategists of the Granite Pillar.
The attack comes an hour after dawn. The entire Jotun force in the Mournwold launches an overwhelming assault against Orchard's Watch, with the triumphant charge of the Mandowla's Roar - perhaps fifteen thousand orcs and Summer spirits strong - leading the way.
The Singing Caves fall first, within the first three hours of the fighting. The Corazón and the Tower of the North armies are then freed to sweep round the northern flanks of the castle - where they find the Granite Pillar and the Tusks, anticipating their maneuver, have prepared defensive trenches and a stake line that breaks their charge and bogs them down and leaves them easy prey for a flanking attack.
It is time to make our stand and say no farther.
Not one more foot of Mourn soil will be given up.
We will hold and hold so when the full armies of
the Empire come we can push them.
The Drakes, the Strong Reeds, and the orcs of the Winter Sun stand firm in the face of the Jotun assault. When the gates of Overton fall, Marcher and orc are there to meet the first Jotun through. When the western tower of Orchard's Watch is shattered by a Jotun catapult-stone, the Marchers and the Highborn are there to rally the defenders and hold the breach. When the doors of the keep are smashed open by armoured ogres, the Marcher defenders fight to hold them back long enough for the noncombatants and the wounded to be evacuated to safety.
No more than a handful of the Marcher folk who have called the town home since time out of mind are prepared to flee. As one of the aldermen says, coughing blood from the Jotun arrow in his lung: "While Overton stands, we'll stand by it."
Take the castle.
Take the Mournwold.
Overton falls, and little by little the Marchers, and the Highborn, and the Imperial Orcs are forced back. First out of Overton, and then out of the Greensward. With the only option being to surrender and face the Jotun Choice, the captains have no alternative but to sound the retreat and withdraw from the Mournwold.
As the last Imperial soldiers are harried back across the border toward Tassato Mestra, a great cry goes up from the Jotun, a cheer that seems to have no end, that rolls back and forth with the sound of drums and horns, and echoes across the hills of north-western Tassato as the last Marcher captain leaves the Mournwold.
For three centuries a Marcher banner has flown over the Mournwold. Now this land belongs to the Jotun.
While Orchard's Watch still stands, it stands for the Jotun now, a third fortification securing the southern hills, securing one end of the passes that lead into Braydon's Jasse and Kahraman. The Singing Caves, and the mithril they contain, belong to the Jotun now. So, too, do the people of the Mournwold.
The fate of the people of the Greensward at least is clear. They have never been under the boot of the Jotun before, so they will be offered the Choice. Take up arms and fight for the Jotun against the Empire; lay down their arms and work the fields as thralls; or wield their weapons one last time and receive an "honourable" death beneath an orcish axe.
What is less clear is the fate that will befall those Marcher yeofolk who had taken the Choice to become Jotun thralls but, inspired by Imperial forces, took up arms against their orc overlords. The people of Whittle are obviously under threat, but there are hundreds of others across the Marches who have offered support to the Imperial forces during their effort to liberate the Mourn, resistance fighters, and even those who have sheltered or aided scouts passing through their villages. The Jotun traditionally deal very harshly with those who violate the oath of the thrall; there is a very real chance that will be executed wherever they can be found.
The Military Council will no doubt need to debate what happened in the Mournwold, but one thing is clear - without the heroic action during the Summer Solstice, it is likely that the Jotun would have taken the Greensward easily and potentially been in a position to begin establishing a beachhead in Tassato - or even to offer concrete aid to their forces in Kahraman.
Game Information: Mournwold
The Jotun now control the entire Mournwold, including the fortification at Orchard's Watch. This also means that the Sheriff of Overton sinecure will no longer provide any resources. In addition, and character whose personal resource is in the Mournwold will be subject to the rules on conquered territories in future downtimes (essentially, all resources except fleets and military units have their production halved). The usual rules for changing a resource and moving to a new territory apply.
A handful of Imperial citizens - mostly Marchers - refused to leave Overton when it fell to the Jotun. They stayed behind to fight to the bitter end. If you want your character to have been present in that group at that time - and to have made the choice to stay behind - then please do not go time-in at 6pm Friday. Please come and see us at Monster and we will take it from there.
The Price is Consequence
The Barrens has never been friendly to the Empire, always a place of danger where unseen threats lurk behind every tree and beneath every hill For another season, the waters across the Barrens run red, saturated with vileness that sucks the energy and the will to fight out of those who drink it. Pure water is now a luxury - and the taint has sunk into every wine bottle and keg of ale in Dawnguard, as well as into the rivers, streams, lakes, and the Barren Sea.
The flies grow fat and lazy; they barely bother to dodge and when one is swatted as often as not it bursts with an unpleasant crimson stickiness. Everything is touched with sickness; every wound breeds maggots, every injury blackens and swells with sepsis. The weather is too hot, and too wet, and the sky presses close above the trees, a crushing weight that breeds discontent and unhappiness.
The forests and the marshes live, sick with Spring magic and with Night magic. Malevolent, hateful, hungry for blood. Potent foci of defensive enchantment that offer protection to the orc defenders.
This is what the armies of the Empire must contend with as they march to conquer the Carmine Fields. The Gryphon's Pride and the Golden Sun, cautiously expanding the Imperial control of the western Barrens. Pains are taken to minimize the threat of the Spring magic taint - field hospitals support physicians and witches alike who focus their energies on reducing Dawnish casualties. Such care comes at a cost however, and the Dawnish forces advance only slowly.
They are resisted by the armies of the Barrens orcs, but it is clear from the outset that something has changed. There is no sign of the banners of the Black Wind or the Great Forest, only the white bird banner of the Rhavin. They try to stand against the Dawnish, to defend the scattered orc farms and settlements of the Carmine Fields, but time and again they are forced to retreat. With the malignant Spring curse, it is clear that their forces are being decimated whenever they try to engage with the better armed, better armoured, better trained Dawnish forces. Time and again, they fall back. They make what use they can of the magical defences in Farweald and the Untrod Groves but it is just not enough. As the season wears on there are less and less engagements between Dawn and the orcs until abruptly they stop altogether.
Still, the slow and cautious pace of the Dawnish advance, even backed by the garrison of the Towers of the Dawn, means that the Empire has still not conquered the Carmine Fields, but by the time the season ...
... ah. There is more.
A month or so after the Solstice, while the knights are still fighting the Rhavin, news comes from the south. An army of a little over two thousand orcs of the Great Forest, along with what appears to be the majority of their tribe or clan or whatever it is they claim as their identity emerges from Hope's Rest into the Tarn Valley in Therunin. They do not attempt to conceal their approach, and send scouts ahead to ensure that they are expected. They are responding to the invitation of the Navarr, supported by the Imperial Senate. They are armed, and armoured, and clearly prepared to retreat back over the border at the first sign of treachery. They are met by representatives of the steadings and stridings of Therunin, and a great camp is raised in the Lower Tarn Valley. There are stories - only a few but enough to cause comment - that with them are a number of humans of obvious briar lineage whose intentions are a little less clear. They are clearly allied to these barbarian orcs of the Great Forest - no not barbarians. By judgement of the Senate the Great Forest are foreigners, and welcome in Therunin. The question of what to do about their allies must wait, for the moment.
But the tale they bring... the story they tell of their march south... that is of greater interest than any briars. The Black Wind have left the Barrens as well, but they have crossed the river east of the Saltmarsh into the Mallum. Not as conquerors, but as supplicants. Even the Great Forest orcs are not certain, but it seems that half the Black Wind tribe has betrayed the other half and seeks to make peace with the Druj... an overture that they have accepted.
This, then, explains why the defenders of the Barrens are so depleted, and why the Empire is so easily able to conquer more of the Carmine Fields leaving them as the Equinox nears with ...
... ah, no. There is more still.
Two days after the Great Forest orcs enter Therunin, while they are cautiously raising their tents and receiving the diplomats of the Navarr, the first reports of trouble in the east begin to filter back to the Dawnish forces. Knight's errant and questing alike, some of them battered and diseased, bring dire news of a host - a great host of orcs - that has crossed the rivers from the east, slaughtering every orc in their path that does not kneel and bow their head at their approach.
Thousands of orcs. Orcs beneath banners of jade-and-gold, their spiked armour bedecked with skulls and bones. There is no chance to estimate numbers. One party of errants engaged in a test of mettle near the Saltmarsh claim they saw five thousand orcs camped on the banks of the great marshes there. Another lone survivor - who later dies of her wounds - ranted and raved until the end about thirty-, forty-, fifty-thousand yellow eyes watching her from the darkness. A pair of scouts indicate that they saw nothing... but several other scouting parties testing out the defences of the Bitter Strand to the east fail to return and while it is likely that the Barrens orcs accounted for them there is a concern that ...
... ten days before the Autumn Equinox, with the Dawnish knights consolidating their meagre gains in the Carmine Fields a band of half a dozen orcs emerge from the south-eastern forests and plant a flag of truce in the soil of the Carmine Fields that flutters and dances in the sudden quick breeze. It is spattered with blood. At the foot of the flag they place sacks, damp and dripping, and buzzing with flies. The six of them settle down to wait unconcerned, beneath the flag. Some of them roll bones, talking quietly among themselves. The others keep watch across the fields.
A discussion, and then the Gryphon's Pride and the Golden Sun both send a delegation of twenty soldiers each to see what is afoot. The orcs make no effort to withdraw. They stand and watch the Imperial troops approach - not afraid, no expression readable beneath their hoods and masks. When the first Dawnish knight comes to within bow-cast, the leader holds up one gloved hand and steps forward.
"Parley," she says in a rasping voice full of age and cynicism. "Parley, knights of Dawn. We have a gift and a proposal from our masters."
The knights pause. The orc speaks again. She gestures to the bags they have piled around the flagpole.
"Here is our gift. The heads of the Rhavin. The leaders of the orcs who attacked your homes. They are dead."
One of the knights asks a question, the orc woman shakes her head.
"You misunderstand me. It is not the leaders who are dead - they are all dead. Every single one of them. The tribe of Rhavin is gone. We have reclaimed their tribe lands. As was agreed."
Confusion. The orc does not stop.
"Take a message to your Senate, please, knights of Dawn. We are prepared to negotiate the precise placement of the Line, as agreed. We will await the word of your Senate on the other side of the river, in the Bitter Strand, on the eastern banks of the Kepahitân River, until the end of the Autumn Equinox. We will offer hospitality to a diplomatic envoy of shall we say a dozen. If we hear no word from you we will assume you have reneged on the agreement, are not interested in negotiation, and will act accordingly."
She folds her arms then, and smiles, showing broken blackened teeth. After a moment, the Druj withdraw back toward the river, leaving behind their flag, and the pile of dripping, fly crowded, sacks.
Game Information: The Barrens
The Dawnish armies have extended their influence over the Carmine Fields to the point where just over half of it is under their control. The Great Forest orcs are now in Therunin, a small army and a number of their tribemates, as guests of the Navarr. It is likely a Winds of Fortune will follow detailing the situation there more clearly.
An unknown number of Druj are now in the Barrens. At this time it is not clear if this means there are armies there, or whether it is just half a dozen diplomats waiting on the eastern banks of the Kepahitân River in the Broken Stand. It is not clear what else the Druj might be doing, or what the situation is with regards to the rest of the territory.
The civil service have confirmed that a conjunction of the Sentinel Gate exists on Friday night to "the eastern banks of the Kepahitân River in the Broken Stand" for up to twenty citizens. Fate, it seems, is paying attention.
Remember that if you play one of the battles - you must monster the other. This weekend that means you're going to be portraying the Jotun - if you're coming to monster either of the two battles - please bring/wear any kit or costume that is appropriate for the Jotun. You can learn about the Jotun look and feel here.
There is a second chance to come and play orcs this event. We are running a big Grendel skirmish at 6pm on Saturday. It is totally optional, there is no requirement to volunteer for this skirmish but if you are free and want some fun then please head to monster at 6pm Saturday. If you have any kit that looks good for Grendel then please bring that kit. You can learn about the Grendel look and feel here.
Our intention is to treat this more like a small battle (if we get enough volunteers) than some of the skirmishes that we have run in the past. We're hoping it will be a lot of fun.