380YE Winter Solstice winds of war
The empire is engaged in multiple campaigns with the barbarian orcs.
The eastern front is quiet. In Spiral, the Empire and the Grendel are both defending the territory they control. A few minor skirmishes between scouts take place but both sides appear to be more interested in defence and consolidation than engagement. In Weirwater, the unwholesome army out of Karsk seems to be quiescent - although there are enough travellers tales to suggest that it is still a threat. Likewise, Imperial forces keep a vigilant eye on the southern coast of Necropolis and the eerie supernatural forest of north-western Reikos - but for now, no threat seems to be forthcoming.
The western front is also quiet. There is no fighting in the Mournwold as both Jotun and Imperial hold to their own territory. In Kahraman, the Jotun withdraw through the western mountains leaving the supernatural troops of Cathan Canae to delay the Empire. The Summer soldiers are overwhelmed eventually, and their citadel falls, and Serra Damata is liberated.
In Redoubt, a naval assault attacks the southern shores. There is some resistance from the garrison of the Court of the White Fountain, but the attackers have made significant progress towards creating a beach head. There is some evidence that the Grendel vessels are supporting orc troops who are not native to the Broken Shore.
Finally, in Liathaven, the forces of the Jotun who have withdrawn from Kahraman fall on the Black Thorns inflicting massive casualties and trapping the army in the Western Point.
Quiet on the Eastern Front
Winter is coming. It creeps in, slowly and inevitably. The nights turn cold, dark beneath starless skies. Unlike last winter the winds do not howl, just sigh mournfully with the promise of heavy snow. Mornings start with the quiet crack of ice being broken on water barrels, the sharp crunch of frost-gilded grass, and muttering about the frigid air.
We will bide our time, wait out the Grendel Storm and
make ready to stand heroically if they push any further.
In Spiral, the orcs stay close to their campfires. The Broken Shore is warm and dry even in winter. The Grendel on the whole do not much care for the cold. Their forces still hold much of the south - and the Black Plateau of course. The Imperial forces keep a close watch on the uneasy borderlands between the territory they hold and the territory held by the invaders. In Ankra and Cinion, spires begin slowly to rebuild. It is almost peaceful There is some half-hearted skirmishing, mostly encounters between bands of scouts, but no clash of armies.People are rebuilding in Reikos as well. The wave of Spring magic has entirely subsided. New forests spread across what was once ruined land. Here and there, in defiance of winter, the Highborn break ground on new chapters. Axe and saw are taken to hardwoods; pick and shovel bite deep into stone. Makeshift camps begin to be replaced by shacks and cottages, and slowly, stone walls start to rise again. Tamarbode is silent, however. No woodcutting or quarrying in the dark forest that Llofir claims.
Time to rest and recover. Dont get used to it!
We'll be back on the front line soon. Make the most of it!
In Necropolis, the Quiet Step and the Red Wind Corsairs hold a long vigil against the possibility of a Grendel assault against Sanctuary Sands, but no such assault takes place. The scouts of the Quiet Step line the cliffs overlooking the Bay of Catazar, searching for signs of danger. By the tomb of Atuman, they build a makeshift beacon to warn of any potential naval invasion, but the beacon is left unlit.
In Weirwater, the unquiet dead still wait beneath the trees. Six months ago they emerged from Karsk, from the Semmerlak, and marched south. Driven back from Astolat, they remain in the forests of Weirmoor, and Hawksmoor, and southern Garthsmoor. Under the ebon night skies, corpselights dance, and emerald fires flicker. Questing knights and knights errant are drawn to Weirwater, to the unliving host. There are deaths, and stories of glorious fights alike. Some of the weavers of Applefel have cautiously slipped through the woodlands, wrapped in heavy cloaks against the cold, hidden from malicious eyes. There are unsettling stories. Pedlars, woodcutters, charcoal burners, scouts, poachers - people who have not come home despite the cold chill of Winter. The yeofolk mutter and grumble. There are probably good explanations for the people who have disappeared, but the easiest is that the army of the dead has eaten them. "Something must be done," becomes the refrain as the Winter Solstice approaches. "Someone must do something!"
Quiet on the Western Front
The Mourn rests uneasy. The Jotun took Greensward, and the Empire took it back less than a month later. The Jotun withdraw north and west as an early winter snow settles over the burial mounts they leave behind. The dark earth of the south-eastern farms is freshly turned, a final bed for the heroes of the Marches. After so much bitter fighting, the situation is back to what it was during the long months of the ceasefire
This is the war of a generation. We will not end it in one day, but we will raise the curtain on a decisive act.
By the time the curtain falls, you will be heroes and all the world will be your audience.
Take their breath away..
The Empire defend what they have regained. The Jotun defend what they have taken. On the walls of Orchard's Watch, and Fort Braydon, and La Redotta Rezia, the sentries stand a nervous watch in wan daylight and pitchblack night, straining to hear the tread of orc feet signalling the orc return. It doesn't come.
Stories blow down from the north, of resistance crushed without mercy. Of armies of orcs moving across the hard, frozen ground. Of fighting, but not with the Empire. A week after the Autumn equinox nearly a hundred men, women, and children of the Mourn cross the border from Grey March into Graven Marsh. Many of them are Marchers only in theory - children grown up under the Jotun who have known no other way of life. Each of the adults bears a livid brand on their cheek of the rune Queros. Their passage is watched by five hundred silent Jotun on the hills above High Courage. These are some of those who rallied to the Empire when they came to liberate the Mournwold. Defeated by the Jotun, marked as oathbreakers, and set free as agreed with Tancred De Rondell. The last of them, exhausted from their long march, bring a message. "There will be no more mercy."
Autumn turns to winter, and a shroud of silence settles over the Mournwold broken only by the bitter cries of crows, hungry for war.
My Friends, take heart in knowing you fight for your home,
your nation and your people.
Further south, in Kahraman, the silence is broken by the roar of great beasts and the clash of steel on steel and stone on flesh. The Fire of the South, the Fist of the Mountains, the Summer Storm, and the Towerjacks sweep west through Serra Damata, supported by scouts and auxiliaries from Fort Braydon in the north. They encounter little resistance from the Jotun. The orcs have broken camp and marched west, ahead of the armies.
What they encounter instead is a citadel of ice and black stone. The castle dwarfs the town of Damata, as the giants that garrison it dwarf the soldiers who come against them. Massive warriors of the Summer Realm wrapped in leather and white fur, tough hides marked with curling spiral tattoos, they fight the Imperial troops without let or quarter, defending the Jotun retreat. The citadel cannot stand against four Imperial armies, but it holds for three days before finally the gates are broken and the fighting shifts to the halls and chambers of the magical edifice. Once the walls are breached, the Imperial soldiers find that the giant orc-like ogrekin are not the only defenders - vicious fighting between human and orc, and squat ivory-tusked goblin-warriors slicks the frigid halls with blood.
I ask the Summer Storm, once again, to earn their legend
and cut down the Enemy!
Strive for your nation!
March for your Empire!
These creatures of the Summer Realm do not seem to fear death; for them it is only a defeat that sends them back to their mistress' domain. Those who fall beneath their spears and their warpicks and their icy axes... they do not rise again. In the end, around a hundred Imperials die taking the magical citadel... with little to show for it. As the Winter Solstice approaches the castle begins to crumble and sag. By the end of the summit it will have gone, tumbled back into the realm of the Queen of Ice and Darkness.
The Jotun have long gone by the time the Imperials liberate the people of Damata - along with a bounty of white granite from the Damatian Cliffs. The beautiful walls of the town still stand, the intricate calligraphy that covers them undamaged by the Jotun occupation. Wordlessly, the dhomiro of Damata take the commanders of the Imperial armies to view a part of the walls where new writing can be found. A Jotun stonesmith has carved her own passage onto the walls of Damata, in a stark and angular letters a foot high. "We came. We shall come again."
Game Information: Western Front
The situation in the Mournwold has not significantly changed - the Empire controls Greensward and the Jotun appear to control everything else. The Singing Caves were briefly in the hands of the Jotun before they were liberated - so the Imperial Senate may choose to allocate them again. Indeed, during the Autumn Equinox the Senate voted to allocate the Singing Caves as a Marcher national seat but the motion was subject to veto by The Throne. As a result, the mithril mine remains unallocated. If the Senate reaches a decision swiftly, it may be possible for the seat to be appointed during the coming summit.
Imperial forces have completed the liberation of Serra Damata from the barbarians. All of Kahraman is now under Imperial control once again. The white granite quarries of the Damatian Cliffs have been recovered and are now available to the Senate to allocate. Regardless of their decision, the seat will not be appointed until the Spring Equinox at the earliest.
On Crimson Field
The time is at hand. Now is the day, the season,
the Glorious Golden Sun will shine over the Barrens!
The Golden Sun and the Gryphon's Pride press the advance in the Barrens. They consolidate the territory they have taken in Carmine Fields, and push south and east into Murderdale. Imperial forces encounter some resistance, but it is disorganised and falls easily before Dawnish steel and the spells of the war witches. It seems that many of the orcs native to the northern Barrens have already fled before the encroaching armies; those that remain are hard-bitten savages who fight viciously to defend their homes but are soon swept aside. The scattered survivors retreat into the woods to take up lives of petty banditry.
Imperial Forces are supported by a field hospital. Perhaps inspired by the words of Empress Lisabetta at her coronation, a number of chirurgeons and physicks fight their own battles against death and disease in support of the Dawnish. Their aid is invaluable in keeping the number of casualties suffered by the Empire to a bare minimum.
Scouts and knights errant report that the Dawnish armies are not the only forces moving in the Barrens, however. There is little concrete information; perhaps the soldiers working with the spy network know more. It certainly appears that the Druj are continuing their campaign of conquest, but they do not come into conflict with the Dawnish. There are confused stories of vicious fighting in the south - most likely with the briar heretics at Dourfell Keep - but the truth of the matter and the outcome are both unclear.
How much longer can the two forces in the Barrens continue to avoid conflict? Rumours of secret compacts are rife.
Game Information : The Barrens
Shores of Naris
Two weeks after the Autumn Equinox, a force of barbarian orcs makes landfall along southern Naris in Redoubt. Supported by a shore offensive by Grendel mariners, the orcs quickly establish themselves on the peninsula of Rebekah's Leap, and push north toward Elos.
It seems likely that they intend to try and take the defenders of Redoubt by surprise, but they have reckoned without the Heliopticon. Within hours of the first attack, warnings fly through the air to nearby spires and from there spread out across the entire territory. By dawn the next day, the Urizen nation knows there are orcs in southern Redoubt. The garrison of the Court of the White Fountain is mobilized to support the sentinels and citadels along the coast. It takes some time to traverse the mountain roads, and by the time the defensive forces arrive the invaders have already captured several settlements.
The Heliopticon bears more than just news of the attack. It brings with it the news that these are not Grendel forces - or at least the majority of them are not what the mages of Urizen would describe as Grendel. They are hard, vicious orc barbarians well-versed in fighting in the foothills, and with a significant number of savage battle magicians in their ranks. Many of them bear banners of orange cloth, and beat frenzied unfamiliar rhythms on their drums. A Freeborn merchant visiting the spire of Hanging Rock offers confirmation - against all the odds these are Lasambrian orcs. Oh there are Grendel among them, that much is clear to the spyglasses of Urizen. But the main force is without a doubt made up not of orcs of the Broken Shore but of the western hills, far away on the other side of Segura.
Lasambrian they may be, but they seem to share the Grendel thirst for treasure. The spires that fall to their advance are looted - valuables and citizens alike stolen and sent south toward the coast. The soldiers of the Court of the Fountain slow their advance, providing an opportunity for some of the spires to evacuate - but they cannot halt the orcs.
The most recent reports suggest that the orc force has sent out two very large raiding parties. One is heading north towards the fishing town of Elos. The other is heading north-east towards the largely unprotected spire of Evenstar - a rich hospital specialising in the use of Spring magic and Day magic to treat long-term illness.
Game Information : Redoubt
The invading orcs control roughly a third of the region of Naris, and are well on their way to establishing a beachhead in Redoubt.
Leaves of Grass
Our commitment to revenging ourselves upon the Jotun has not wavered.
It is not enough to hurt them or distract them, we must ruin them and
force them to compromise everything that makes their nation strong in their
attempt to counter our tactics. Imperial Druj? Hardly. We are far darker than
that. We are the Empire's Monsters... Make them pay and tell dark stories of
us. Take the North. Save our People.
The Black Thorns push into Western Scout encountering little resistance from the orcs there. They begin to recapture ruined steadings while hunting for survivors hiding from the Jotun. The work integrating the influx of Navarr thorns into the army is complete, swelling the army's numbers to well over seven thousand. The dead thorns, raised by Winter magic, continue to fight alongside their living brothers and sisters. Hope rises that southern Liathaven can be liberated within a couple of weeks.
Those hopes are smashed less than a month after the Autumn Equinox when a massive Jotun force pours through the mountains from Kahraman and devastates the thorns left behind to consolidate Beacon Point.
The Jotun are angry. If anything, they are even more incandescent with rage that they were the last time they swept through Liathaven. They are a tide of fire and steel purposeful, ruthless, washing east to west and slaughtering everything in their path. They do not waste time - where they encounter fortified resistance they simply burn it out and move on. They offer no quarter. Columns of black smoke mark their progress through the forests.
The Navarr put up a spirited defence but even with their enlarged force they are vastly outnumbered. Over the course of the next two months, three thousand thorns are lost to the Jotun advance. More than died on the Iron Plains. More than fell to the Flux in Reikos. As many soldiers as fell defending the walls of Holfried. Cut to pieces, crushed beneath iron boots, rent asunder by the fury of the barbarian armies who form a veritable wall of death as they root out every Navarr they can find.
Unable to stop the onslaught, the Black Thorns are pushed west. There is no opportunity for them to try and break the Jotun lines - they are too spread out and the Jotun are simply too strong for them. Beacon Point is lost within a month, and the gains the Imperial troops have made in Western Point soon come under attack. There is little doubt the Jotun forces are bent on the complete destruction of the Black Thorns - they seem largely disinterested in capturing territory compared to slaughtering Navarr soldiers.
The rout might have been complete were it not for the efforts of a score of brave thorns fighting alongside the army with their elite military units. There is nothing these seasoned soldiers can do to cut the losses suffered by the army - but their aid is sufficient to slow the attackers and give the army time to regroup. Sadly their numbers are near half what they were last season. The assistance the Black Thorns were receiving from other nations has vanished - and over a third of the elite Navarr units gone with it. But still, many have stayed on, resisting the lure of the Guerdon and the opportunity to get paid for resting their troops in the Mourn.
All is not necessarily lost, not quite yet. The advance of the Jotun is slowed by the need to deal with the forces in Beacon Point. The Black Thorns are still holding on to parts of Western Scout, meaning they still possess a beachhead in Liathaven should they be in a position to fight back against the tide of death advancing on them from the west. Yet it cannot be denied the army is caught in a vice. A Jotun army to the east that seems bent on their complete annihilation. Unknown Jotun forces to the west and south. The Vallorn to the north. Trapped.
Or ... not completely. Paths of Lan Thúven remain open, providing a possibility for retreat through the Vallorn to West Ranging. The Jotun could not follow directly - they would need to circumnavigate the Vallorn, come in to West Ranging from the north - assuming they realised where the Black Thorns had gone of course. They could advance into the northern Lasambrian hills, into Reinos, and thence hope to fight their way back into Kahraman from the west by midsummer. Or they could attack west into the unknown Jotun territories that lie beyond the forest. Or they could try to force their way east, hoping to somehow overwhelm the Jotun advance and make it back through the mountains to Kahraman - but even if that were possible it would likely see significant casualties suffered by the already bloodied army.
Or they could stand and fight - but without significant support it is doubtful if they could survive a second season of the Jotun's fury.
Game Information : Liathaven
The Black Thorns are boxed in in western Liathaven. The Jotun and the Vallorn are between them and the rest of the Empire. If nothing changes during the coming summit, the General of the Black Thorns will have a difficult decision to make. A civil service expert will be on hand during the coming summit to discuss the strategic situation with the general in more detail. A rough assessment of the army's options would be:
- They could stay where they are, or try to push east into Beacon Point and hope to drive the Jotun back.
- They could attempt to push through the Jotun line and reach Serra Damata, but doing so would likely result in significant casualties even for an army as swift as the Black Thorns.
- They could, of course, advance south into the Lasambrian Hills territory of Reinos - but they would then have to spend a season in that territory before they could move east into Kahraman.
- They could push west into the unknown Jotun territory beyond Liathaven.
- They could use the Paths of Lan Thúven to cross the Vallorn to the north - but if they did so they would stop once they entered the Jotun-controlled region of West Ranging and this move would be subject to the normal rules for attacking a disconnected region.
Regardless of what happens, the opportunity presented to enlarge the Black Thorns has been completed - indeed, without the additional troops provided by that opportunity, the Black Thorns would be in an even worse state than they currently are.
On Saturday, two major conjunctions have been identified - but the heroes of the Empire will only be able to take advantage of one of them. Both open in Redoubt. One opens near the fishing town of Elos, the other near the hospital spire of Evenstar. The civil service predicts that either of these conjunctions could be used to head off one of the two large barbarian raiding forces.
On Sunday, three conjunctions have been identified that will allow Imperial heroes to engage the Jotun - but again only one can be taken advantage of. The first opens in Liathaven and offers an opportunity to get the Black Thorns moving through the Paths of Lan Thúven, potentially helping to get the army out of southern Liathaven. The second also opens in Liathaven and offers an opportunity to support the Black Thorns - potentially offering them assistance in holding their beachhead in Western Scout if they receive assistance from other Imperial armies. The third conjunction opens in the Mournwold, and offers an opportunity to secure information about the Jotun's plans for their campaign along the western front.
By the time of the Winter Solstice summit, the civil service will have completed reports for each of the five major conjunctions, which will be presented to the generals during the Muster. The final decision about which two major conjunctions to exploit, and who will take part in the battles, is the heavy responsibility of the generals alone.