382YE Spring Equinox winds of war
- 1 Overview
- 2 Salvage (Madruga)
- 3 Pyre (Sermersuaq)
- 4 Home (Semmerholm)
- 5 Immolation (Liathaven)
- 6 Cascade (Zenith)
- 7 Leviathan Wakes (Spiral)
- 8 Assured Destruction (Major Conjunctions)
It is a new year, but the war is old.
Marcher armies oppose the Grendel in Madruga while the armies of Dawn and their Varushkan allies fight the Druj to liberate Semmerholm. Neither force faces significant opposition - the orcs seem to have abandoned their positions and withdrawn.
The Marchers and the Navarr face the vallorn in Liathaven, a vicious campaign intended to resit an attempt to expand into West Ranging. They are victorious, but the price is high. Still, it wins a chance to push forward - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attack the heart of a vallorn directly.
In Urizen, the scales shift dangerously. The Highborn defenders are driven out of Zenith by the Druj - the entire territory is now in the hands of the eastern orcs. At the same time a major force of Imperial troops slaughters three Grendel armies in Spiral, winning the territory but in the process rousing a slumbering power to wakefulness that may have long lasting consequences.
An uneven season of campaigning for the Empire. The Civil Service studies and compiles notes on the Sentinel Gate - the unique teleportation device that allows the heroes of the Empire to intercede in distant theatres of war. The generals will have their work cut out for them when the muster begins at the Spring Equinox.
Merry Lads and Lasses, The Mournwold is ours, but now our neighbours need us, and it seems our work is never done. We march to Madruga and our bills and bows advance steadily will drive the Grendel back into the bitter sea from where they came. Freelanding is the home of the Freeborn, now lets get them back their land.Will Talbot, General of the Drakes
The Grendel swept into Madruga after the Autumn Equinox, a lightning raid agaist Atalaya and the Shining Pillar. They burned the shipyards, destroyed the Freeborn Storm, crushed all resistance on the islands of Free Landing, and then pushed on to raid the port of Quzar. The Navarr forces defending Madruga, the Black Thorns, were decisively defeated, pushed to the brink of destruction themselves.
After the Winter Solstice, the Navarr withdraw, marching north through Kahraman and the Mournwold toward the safety of distant Miaren. In the opposite direction, down out of the Mourn, come two Marcher armies to replace them. The Drakes and the Strong Reeds waste little time engaging the seafaring orcs. They drive south along the coast of Lightsea liberating towns and villages. There is some fierce fighting at Quzar, but it lasts only a handful of hours before the raiding pirates board their ships and flee back across the straits to Atalaya.
The invading orcs are nothing like the disciplined forces that have come to drive them out. The Marchers are methodical, marshalling their resources to ensure the fewest Imperial lives are lost. Seven and a half thousand soldiers against at most a few hundred raiders - it seems the bulk of the Grendel forces have already withdrawn to the islands. Sadly they take with them their ill-gotten gains, the booty of a hundred looted paradours and ruined businesses.
With the aid of the corsairs of the Brass Coast, the armies of the Marches push to liberate the islands of Free Landing. There is no navy, but the distances between islands are short and the people of Madruga are very angry indeed. There is some reticence from the Marcher captains. In the end, they are forced to admit that they either risk the sea or leave the Grendel in control of the islands. Some, of course, are more eager than others - there are yeomen born and raised among the boats of Meade and the rushes of North Fens who leap at the chance.
Soldiers of the Strong Reeds, our hard won victories do not mean we can rest on our laurels. The Empire aided us, now we in turn aid. A Steady Advance into Madruga to remove the Grendel scum.Jack Flint, General of the Strong Reeds
The Grendel have little interest in fighting this season. A handful of hit-and-run strikes against Freeborn ships transporting Marcher soldiers, a few vicious skirmishes on this island or that. One by one the islands are liberated. Only at Atalaya is there any serious attempt to slow the Marcher advance; but it is clear that almost all the Grendel forces have already departed. Witnesses say that the great armada left, taking the land troops with it, even before news of the Strong Reeds and the Drakes reached the islands. They have also taken much of the wealth of Free Landing - including many priceless relics and artefacts of the first years of the Brass Coast looted from the museums of Atalaya.
Unfortunately, the difficulty presented by fighting over the islands does not complement the steady advance favoured by the Marchers. While almost all the islands are liberated, the troops are not in a position to take Atalaya which remains in Grendel hands. Several of the smaller islands are still occupied by Grendel forces, but they are opportunists - pirates - thieves. Not soldiers.
One more push should see the last Grendel occupation forces driven out - but such a push must wait until after the Spring Equinox.
Game Information : Madruga
The Strong Reeds and the Drakes face no organised resistance in their push to liberate Madruga. The main Grendel forces have withdrawn, leaving behind only scattered raiders and pirates. The Empire has retaken Lightsea, and is eight-tenths toward complete control of Free Landing.
A week after the Winter Solstice, eighteen thousand Jotun march into Sermersuaq, give or take. They march under the banners of the Queen in the North's honourguard. The Jarl of Jarls of the orcs of Kalsea has sent her champion, Jorgen Hylasson, to lead his Skjalderborn to Sermersuaq. Heralding their way come the musicians and skalds of the Roaring Thunder, the army of Kyrac Gerdasdóttir. Impressive as this force would be by itself, they are further bolstered by what appears to be a great host of Jotun champions - the warbands that march under the banners of the greatest heroes of the Jotun - and by warriors sworn to the kirkja.
The way has been prepared by the Ice Fishers of Ldansk. Stark quickly falls. The village of Rest, and the Last Lantern become the base from which the Jotun expand to conquer the rest of the region. The ruined tower that stands near the village - The Sentinel's Rest - is briefly extinguished and then reignited by the orcs themselves. A great bonfire is raised, many times larger than the warning beacon traditionally used. Thus the Jotun armies announce their presence.
Despite the lack of any substantial force capable of holding back the tide the Jotun continue to advance cautiously with none of their normal bravado. All the signs suggest they expect a trap, preparing at any moment to fall back to their defenses. Some Winterfolk flee, many more stand and fight to defend their homes, but the Jotun advance is not even slowed. Hall after hall falls. As before, the bodies of those who fight the Jotun are treated with respect, interred beneath barrow mounds. Those who surrender are offered the Choice - but those who choose to become thralls are sent west out of Sermersuaq to Tromsa and Skallahn.
Stark falls quickly. The Jotun do not pause. They press north into Taikipari, with the same measured slow advance, prepared always for signs of treachery. More halls fall. Suaq hunting parties are intercepted, and given the Choice. A fortnight before the Spring Equinox, the Roaring Thunder and the fellowship of the Howling Bears take the Hot Springs of Taniki. The defenders are supported by Kallavesi warriors, by feathered mystics, but the Jotun roll inexorably onwards, crushing all who stand before them.
There are raiders everywhere. The warband of the Jarl of Aftanes pushes into Sealtoq to the east, but is repulsed with minor losses by the desperate Suaq. A feint, rather than a serious attempt to conquer. Testing the resolve of the defenders. Many Suaq fall; barely a handful of orc bodies are counted on the battlefield when the Jarl withdraws.
There is another matter of concern. In Spring 380YE, the Jotun invaded Kallavesa and over the course of the Summer established a presence there. While they later left the territory, their warriors still haunt the marshes of northern West Marsh. West Marsh lies just across the border from Stark - and if the Jotun were to turn their attention toward the ancestral homeland of the Kallavesi they would have a significant advantage in establishing a foothold there.
Furthermore, a band of hard-bitten Steinr wardens who patrol the plains beneath the Silver Peaks return to Atalaq, battered and bruised, shortly before the Spring Equinox. They bring news that a group of Jotun have passed into the foothills there. They tired warriors assert that the Jotun have been received by the Thule - a diplomatic envoy to the orcs of Otkodov no doubt. There is much heated discussion about what might happen if the warrior-born Jotun were to forge an alliance with the warlocks of Otkodov; none of it heartening. For their part, the northern orcs take no part in the invasion by the Jotun. They remain in their mountain fastness, seemingly disinterested in the slow advance of the western orcs.
Game Information : Sermersuaq
As the Spring Equinox dawns, the Jotun are dug-in at Stark, and half-way towards complete control of Tanikipari. They control most of the land between the western border and the shores of lake Atkonartoq. There are raiding forces all over the territory - any character who lives there could have seen or encountered them. The Jotun are being very cautious - but they are not afraid to spill orc or human blood in pursuit of their conquest of the territory.
Dawn and the Eastern Sky has been awakened. Like a Beast waking from a winter slumber. Last Season we were but stretching our muscles. Now we are empowered and our fury untamed. The Druj will melt like frost in the first rays of the summer sun.General of the Eastern Sky
The Winter Solstice saw the armies of Dawn, and their allies in the Golden Axe, victorious, the bulk of the Druj forces in retreat across Semmerholm, pulling back into Axmure. The Varushkans are not the only allies fighting alongside the people of Dawn. In a peerless act of Summer magic not seen since the time of Empress Brannan, Dawn's witches have called forth a grand host of elfin knights and goblin soldiers from the Fields of Glory, from the domain of Eleonaris, the Sovereign in Scarlet and Gold.
Now heralds of Summer fight alongside each of the four armies of Dawn. The golden cohort relishes every opportunity to prove their strength against the vicious, cowardly orcs of the Mallum. They sing as they fight, exulting in the chance to spill the blood of the twisted Druj. Their presence is an inspiration, and not only on the field of war. They offer and receive camaraderie with gusto, extending supernal hospitality to their fellow warriors, and accepting it in their turn. The golden palanquins of the noble fey never seem to lack for prime victuals, fine wines fermented from no earthly grapes, and shared tales of wild hunts, of glorious romance, and heroic battle in the summer Realm. The regimented ranks of green and black tents that house their soldiers - those squat, unrefined squires and archers - welcome the yeofolk to share their coarser fare, their strong spirits, and more earthy tales of conquest and desperate conflict.
Once Again the knights of the Summer Realm march with us. Rejoice in their presence and compete to Charge Triumphantly, more gloriously and show our strength. Prove our superiority in friendly competition too with the Golden Sun and enjoy the company of our fellows in the eastern sky and Gryphon's Pride and our Varushkan Comrades in the Golden Axe.General of the Hounds of Glory
The Dawnish match their strange allies feast for feast, drink for drink, tale for tale. Gifts are exchanged; weapons and armour forged in Summer forges or bound with the light touch of Weavers. Trophies of great beasts from forests magical and mortal. Arrows fletched with unearthly feathers, or marked in the colours of noble houses. Flasks of dark purple wine, of thick brown beer; bottles of finest vintage, of strong Vaushkan mead. Some mortals and some courtiers of Eleonaris exchange favours. There are challenges offered and met, and fights "for love" between mortal and immortal, and even occasional dalliances in those timeless moments when the fires burn low and the moon hangs fat and slow above the trees of Axmure.
Not everyone is seduced by the camaraderie of Dawn's newest allies; some are less willing to embrace these inhuman knights of Summer. How can those who never die sing of the glory of a struggle between life and death? They fear for the outcome if this campaign becomes some unearthly pageant rather than a true battle to preserve the great land of Dawn. They point out that the inhuman Druj are a real enemy, not creatures of shadow from a storybook but cruel, ruthless, endlessly cunning orcs who will seize upon any weakness to murder their foes. They urge their fellows to remember that this is not a game, or a story, and that the enemy who waits for them will not easily be defeated.
Dawnish Knights, it's time to finish this. Push the line in Semmerholm and take back what is ours from the Druj.General of the Gryphon's Pride
Regardless of these concerns, the host of Dawn rises and goes forth to face the Druj... only to find that they have quit the field.
The orcs are in full retreat - withdrawing south faster than the Dawnish armies can advance. There are the usual Druj tricks - traps and ambushes left to bedevil the unwary and the overconfident. Bands of saboteurs and guerillas who seek to outflank scouts and overzealous bands of questing knights and bring them to a bad end. As they fall back they fire the manors and villages they have conquered, sending plumes of greasy black smoke into the sky to taunt the armies of Dawn. They refuse every attempt by the armies of Dawn to draw them to battle, melting away like fog before the light of the rising sun whenever the captains think they have them within their grasp.
Oh, for sure, scattered bands of Druj continue to raid across the territory beyond the front lines. They burn, they loot, they murder. The Golden Axe spend much of their time hunting these groups, but for each band they corner two more slip through their fingers. During the Winter Solstice, a particular strike force raided the Pits of Brychel for example, carrying away a band of scholars studying the old Terunael ruins there. No sign of the raiders or the scholars is found. Those witnesses who survived the attack say that the Druj were not alone - that they met with certain bandit bands who had long harassed the people of Ulvenholm and Boar's Dell, descendants of the bitter orcs who once ruled all of Semmerholm. Now they are gone - retreated back south alongside the armies - and they seem to have taken the bulk of the bandits with them to the relief of the yeofolk and Navarr alike.
Filled with the might and power of Glory, we will charge the hated Druj and drive them from Semmerholm. For Dawn and the Empire.General of the Golden Sun
Less than a month, and the legions of Dawn have liberated all that land claimed by the Druj. The next two months are spent rooting out the worst of the Druj hunting bands - but that is work perhaps more suited for knights errant than for the glorious hosts of the rising sun. There is perhaps some disappointment - there are few opportunities for glory.
Still, the Druj have made little effort to hide where they have gone. Their armies have crossed the southern border the way they came, back into the Barrens, back toward Dawnguard. Perhaps it is only fitting that the armies of Dawn have a little time to celebrate their victory, to gird themselves for what must surely come next...
Game Information : Semmerholm
Continue to march to Semmerholm in support of Dawn.General of the Golden Axe
The Druj have fled Semmerholm without allowing Imperial forces any major engagements. Druj raiding parties strike various places across Semmerholm, but by the end of the season, those that have not been hunted down and destroyed have either fled the territory or gone into hiding.
Semmerholm is once again entirely in Dawnish hands.
This season, the magicians of Dawn summoned four cohorts of knights of glory to fight alongside their armies (and a further two engaged in other campaigns alongside armies from other nations). Any character whose military unit supported one of the Dawnish armies this season may choose to begin the next event experiencing a roleplaying effect. You are filled with absolute confidence; nothing is beyond you if you put your mind to it. Now is the time to act, to pursue goals you have been neglecting. Anyone who questions your prowess must be taught a quick lesson about the foolishness of doubting you.
Furthermore, if you are a changeling whose military unit supported one of the armies, the roleplaying effect is significantly more pronounced. In addition, however, you experience an additional roleplaying effect: you feel a yearning to see the Summer realm in all its glory, and the mortal realm seems dull and lifeless in comparison. The company of people who are not changelings or Summer heralds seems tedious and mundane, their concerns petty and limited. If you have the hero skill you have an additional hero point for the duration of the event. Such characters may also use their experience of fighting alongside the knights of glory to permanently increase the strength of their lineage.
Any character whose military unit fought alongside the Dawnish armies will receive a ribbon for a favour from one of the Summer heralds - you can make up your own story of you received it. If your character would not have accepted such a favour, you can simply hand it back in at GOD when you get your pack. You will need to provide your own phys-rep; they will generally be strips of cloth marked with symbols appropriate to Eleonaris.
The vallorn unfolds across Liathaven, but it is West Ranging where its intent is most focused. Three Imperial armies - the Quiet Step of course, with the Tusks and the Bounders in support - come south out of the marshes of Bregasland to face it there.
It is not easy to fight a vallorn. The vanguard of the vallorn is green; vines and plants and flowers that grow so swiftly they seem to be moving. Snaking over the trees of the western forests, smothering everything in their path, wrapping it in briars and thorns. Aberrant blossoms open to breathe forth the miasma that cloaks those places the vallorn has claimed. Soft white seeds drift on the wind, swiftly sprouting whenever they land on fertile soil. Human-sized ferns uncoil and spread serrated leaves, sending out great clouds of golden spores. Where the spores find open wounds, a monstrous germination takes place, plants drawing sustenance from the liquids of the body as easily as from the ground. A few warriors get them in their eyes, and only the very fortunate are close enough to a physick that their sight can be saved.
Soldiers become gardeners first, and warriors second. Perhaps it is appropriate that it is the Marchers who support the Navarr - they are farmers, and sometimes fighting the vallorn is like weeding a fallow field. Scythes and sickles are employed as often as bills and bows. Fire works a little; once the plants have been cut and torn out, they are burned. Walls of black smoke drift through the trees joining with the miasma. This is not the heart of a vallorn; once the fecund life is uprooted, it is slow to grow back.
The time has come to return to the old war. We march through Bregasland into West Ranging where we will, supported by our marcher allies, make an overwhelming assault on the Vallorn expanding there.General of the Quiet Step
Behind the plants come the husks. The Synod says that these are tragic victims; that their life has not fled them and their souls are trapped in torment. Unlike those corpses that are ridden by winter spirits, say the guides, the vallornspawn husks are living beings enslaved forever on the verge of death. They are tenacious opponents, and they come with the miasma that brings swift death to those that fall before it.
There is an unsettling egalitarianism to these vallornspawn. Navarr and orc shapes shuffle and stumble together, their differences wiped away by the plant life that controls them. Some are clearly recent - the wounds that felled them clear to see, writhing with fresh greenery. Others are older - much older in some cases - unrecognisable as human or orc, devoid even of the scraps of clothing or armour that the fresher vallornspawn sport.
The Quiet Step have made preparations, slathering their weapons in Oil of Blackthorn, or wielding rod and shield to deliver deadly venom. The vallornspawn husks cannot stand against these attacks, failing and withering like wax in a furnace. But there are so many of them. Thousands. The bitter fruit of decades of war, of a legacy of the long centuries of misfortune and desperation before ever the Jotun came into the woods in force. Perhaps some date back to the fall of Liath itself, before the first Navarr took their oaths. Most of them are shaped like people but a few are different. Hulking beasts, once ogres, now massive overgrown threats. Cautious briarborn, the bark that marked their Spring-touched bodies in life now grown to cover them entirely. They radiate the power of life, healing injured vallornspawn and sending them back against the Imperial soldiers.
OK Tusks. Time has come to move again. Our neighbours need us. Bregasland needs us. We strike the vallorn, through Bregasland and into west ranging on Steady Advance. Get your bills. We are going Gardening.General of the Tusks
The viridian wave breaks against the defenders; breaks and falls back and surges forward again. New horrors begin to appear. Among with the husks and the hungry plants come aberrations from the deep vallorn. Unique in their madness, in their twisted shapes, but all-too-familiar in their desire to destroy and consume anything that stands against them. Plants that lurch forward slowly but inexorably, or that lie in wait like green spiders. Natural animals long since twisted and made strange by the awful fecund power of Spring. A massive blind dire bear covered in beautiful multicoloured blossoms. A pack of trilling forest drakes covered in whiplike fronds that trip and entangle those who fight them. A great humanoid effigy half again as tall as the tallest Marcher, faceless head surmounted with horns of braided vines, elongated wooden claws ripping and tearing anything that comes within reach of its emaciated stick-like arms.
The vates whisper. Not all these creatures are natural expressions of the vallorn. There are other powers at work here.
Finally, the ettercaps begin to appear. Massive carapaced beetles scuttle out of the Westwood. They are rare, but when they appear they do not come alone. Twisted insect-creatures with the proportions of humans or orcs, wrapped in chitin. These are something new. They bear scraps of metal and leather strapped to their bodies - armour looted from the battlefields. They wield weapons taken from fallen orcs, from lost Navarr scouting parties. They work together - with more than the cunning of wolves or other natural beasts. Unlike the bulk of the creatures that live within the vallorn, they seem aware of themselves, of their enemies. They are unmarked by the changes, the uniqueness, that the vallorn fosters in its spawn. They use tactics - simple, straightforward, undeveloped - but tactics nonetheless. They flank, they ambush, they hunt out the weak links and fall on them. They possess an eerie fluidity to their movement and action - fighting together as a group rather than each one attacking as the whim takes them as is more common for the vallornspawn.
Horrors, then. A war of human folk against horrors.
The vallorn creatures are at their most dangerous when they draw near a Spring regio. The power of the vallorn takes root more easily there, more swiftly, and with more vitality. The plants and the husks are drawn to these places. Those who must fight the vallornspawn around the scattered Spring regios of West Ranging endure some of the worst fighting of the campaign. They speak also of things coming out of the regio - handfuls of horrors that attack with the power of Spring magic as well as wooden claws. The vates whisper and mutter, certain now. The hand of Yaw'nagrah rests on western Liathaven, despite the efforts of the Conclave to forbid her entry. Has she been called? Or is Liathaven so long outside the borders of the Empire that the Conclave's edict no longer holds sway here?
There are more pressing questions; the matter of Yaw'nagrah must wait.
The battle is hard, and it is tragic. Whenever a soldier falls, they pass quickly into the influence of the miasma. Without immediate aid, they become hosts for the very force that has struck them down. Left long enough, they rise again, infested with the power of the vallorn, to fight their former companions. Especially the briars.
Steady Conquest into West Ranging.General of the Bounders
The Empire is not without powers of its own. Where the Quiet Step fights, an inferno follows. A potent enchantment, fuelled by the power of the Winter realm, brings the flame of Surut to aid the Navarr. The incandescence is deep ruby red, almost black, and devours whatever it touches. It is eager to consume the vallornspawn, but the Navarr seem to have little sway over it and it burns where it wishes. Sometimes it is in the blades of the warriors. Sometimes it kindles in their wake, seizing on fallen vallornspawn or igniting suddenly in the branches of a living tree. It reduces everything to cold grey ashes. It does not harm the Navarr or their allies - not directly. After a few hours, anyone fighting alongside the Quiet Step is caked in dirty ashes, coughing from the smoke that clings to everything. Soap and water will not shift the stench of burning wood. The flames in particular seem hungry to consume Spring regio, and with each immolation of a magical place, they burn stronger.
In the end, the green tide of the vallorn is met and turned back, but the fighting takes a heavy toll. Nearly fifteen-hundred Imperial soldiers - the bulk of them Marchers - fall before the unnatural ferocity of the living forest. Most of those who are overcome in Liathaven are burnt, or beheaded, or rendered to dust by the power of Surut lest they rise again as vallornspawn husks. No Navarr welcomes such an end, but for the Marchers it is a particularly cruel fate. Eight hundred yeomen denied the quiet peace of the soil of their homeland, denied the succor of the apple trees and the rest they have earned.
In the end, as the last fires burn dim and the miasma begins to thin, the Empire has made significant gains in north-western Liathaven. The land is as scarred as the soldiers, however. Swathes of forest have been consumed by Surut's blazing gift, or so warped by the vallorn that there was no choice but to take axe and burning brand to them. It will be decades before the woods recover - if they ever do.
But for now, the vallorn's power has fallen blunted - if not subdued.
Game Information : Liathaven
The vallorn has been prevented from seizing West Ranging. The Empire has made significant headway toward capturing the region, but has not conquered it completely - they are still in the process of establishing a beachhead in northern Liathaven.
As predicted, the vallorn's attempt to expand into West Ranging has expended a lot of energy, leaving it vulnerable. An opportunity exists to push south into Westwood and potentially clean the infestation from this region. As before, magic may be helpful in establishing how difficult that is likely to be. The lack of a beachhead in West Ranging will make it more difficult to press into the Westwood. It will also mean fighting in an area claimed by the vallorn miasma - casualties are likely to be higher than normal as a consequence.
Fire has destroyed great swathes of the forest here; both natural fire and the grim magical immolation of Surut. The latter has left wide ashen scars where nothing will grow, especially where it has consumed a Spring regio. There is no doubt that this has been effective in helping the Imperial forces defeat the vallorn, but so much damage has been caused that the region has lost the forested quality. Almost all the Spring regio in West Ranging have been consumed by Surut's gift.
Anyone whose military unit supports one of the three armies fighting here (the Bounders, the Tusks, or the Quiet Step), and the generals of those armies, can e-mail Profound Decisions and ask for a traumatic wound related to their experiences with the vallorn. A word of warning, however; while the perils of green lung and similar results of exposure to the misasma are well understood this fight against the vallorn has been like nothing in living memory. Soldiers are left infested with living plants that function much like parasites, and there may be lasting damage to anyone whose wounds are not carefully treated. Anyone who does request such a wound will be encouraged to be creative in phys-repping it, at least until a physic can treat them.
Make a Strategic Defence of Zenith. The Urizen have lost too much, let them lose no more!General of the Granite Pillar
The water of Zenith may have been unleashed in the catastrophic destruction of the Golden Cascades, but that water is now infused with healing power. The Rivers of Life flow through the streams, gathering in the pools, falling with the rain. Any wound short of death itself will heal overnight; it is as if every spring in the mountains serves as a healing potion. The Druj, if they are surprised, show no sign of it - as keen to take advantage of this enchanted balm as any Highborn warrior.
They have worked their malign craft in Proceris, transforming the sodden once-fertile plains into a dripping marshland more suited to something from their own homeland, from the Mallum. They have laid down miasma pillars, the wicked stone monoliths that anchor a supernatural force of dread and terror, and let it seep out into the countryside to cow the defenders, speeding the transformation of the Urizen farmland into a stinking morass. But these are the least of their works in Zenith this season. Even as the Winter Solstice comes to an end their armies are on the move. Easily thirty thousand orcs pour across Proceris. The Highborn have held a thin strip of land in the north-west, the gate to Clypion, for six months or so - they are overwhelmed in a matter of days.
Pushed back into Clypion they barely have time to rally before they are again on the retreat. The Granite Pillar coordinate the three Highborn armies, and it is largely due to their strategies that the Druj are slowed as much as they are. The Valiant Pegasus focus their efforts on reducing the casualties the Druj are so eager to inflict; the healing waters are powerful but even they are no match for the malice of the orcs. Hundreds of lives are saved - and not only those of Highborn warriors. At the same time, the unconquered and the magisters of the Seventh Wave risk all to gather as much information as they may about the composition of the Druj forces and - perhaps - their eventual aims.
Into Clypion then floods the tide of the Druj. An overwhelming wall of orcs, set on nothing less than the annihilation of the Imperials and the conquest of the entire territory. At their forefront comes an implacable host beneath a scorpion banner who direct their fellows as to how best to counter the defensive strategies of the Granite Pillar. While they are not as disciplined as their Highborn opponents, they more than make up for that with their cunning. What the Pillar seek to defend, the scorpion-warriors seem to take special pleasure in defiling.
Not One More Step. We have drawn a line of Blood in the Mud and the Druj will not cross it. Turn the Waters of Zenith Red with their blood. Whilst we fight, our unconquered will identify their weaknesses for when we retake Zenith. Death to the Druj.General of the Seventh Wave
Spire after spire falls. Then the Druj come at last to the flat mountaintop where the Halls of Knowledge once stood... and the Seventh Wave report that the absence of the college drives some of them into a wrath as terrifying as it is all-consuming. There are magicians among the Druj - ghulai and vikari alike - who are clearly apoplectic with rage that they have been denied the chance to destroy the foremost college of Urizeni scholarship. They turn the shallow lake where the college once stood black with blood spilled from those prisoners - Highborn and Urizen alike - who suffer the torments inflicted by the frustration of the Druj.
They barely pause, then, their advance fired with the rage of thwarted desire. The deluge continues, out of the hills of Clypion and down onto the plains of Iteri where the Highborn make their last stand.
The Druj do not like to fight on the open plains. Even ground as rugged as that which passes for plains in Urizen lacks the kind of cover they prefer. Their surging advance pauses, and for a day and a night it seems that the invasion may have reached its high-water mark. This hope is short lived however. A tidal wave of Druj washes over the front line defenders, killing and maiming. At first the lines hold then, one by one, the Druj push through. Those soldiers who do not immediately retreat are surrounded and devoured by the horde.
Then the Druj splinter, separate, flowing around the second line of Highborn defenders, outflanking and outmaneuvering. Chaos reigns. The intelligence of the Seventh Wave tracks the Druj warbands as best it can, providing last-minute warnings to the defenders of the movements of the foes. The last refugee camps are almost overrun - the Valiant Pegasus fight desperately to let the last few Urizen evacuate to Morrow and Redoubt, holding off the Druj in some cases to their last breath. The Druj advance reaches the banks of the river Utique; there is a valiant defence that secures time for the last escaping ships of the Urizen to make their way downstream to the river Couros. Five hundred Highborn pay for the flight of the Urizen with their lives in this battle alone, in spite of the magic of the healing river walkers.
The order comes to fall back across the Utique. Spire Calator - the ancient spire where Urizen crafters first codified the lore of the ushabti - burns. The Gardens of Pallas fall to the Druj and - to the surprise of many physicks and apothecaries - after reaping their herbs the Druj burn them also. A pall of thick smoke drifts across the Utique and again it seems that the Druj have reached the extent of their advance.
But they have not. A great storm of axes is brought to bear, stripping the trees of central Iteri. Barely a forest within three leagues of the riverbanks escapes the blades of the Druj. A profusion of pontoon bridges and rafts stretches across the river in a dozen places. Like ants, the Druj swarm across them. The Highborn pepper them with arrows, with javelins; they take up defensive positions on the banks... but fighting a force as cunning and relentless as the Druj who stand knee-deep in what amounts to enchanted healing elixir? It can end only one way. Force of numbers carries the day. Another five hundred Highborn fall in the battle of the Fords of Uteri, bringing the death toll to more than fifteen hundred. Barely a third that many Druj have been slain.
Tend the Highborn armies, but also lend the survivors/refugees of Zenith. Treat them and aid them returning to Morrow/RedoubtGeneral of the Valiant Pegasus
The Granite Pillar do their best but it is clear that even their superior tactics will not keep the Druj at bay. The order is given. The three Highborn armies retreat through the hills into Limus, rallying at the town of Cargo - one of the most important settlements in Urizen, dangerously close to the font line of the Druj advance. A throng of refugees greets them; a quarter of the population of Zenith has gathered here in the shadow of the high cliffs of the port-town.
The Druj advance pauses at last. They now control the entirety of Zenith. Some of the Highborn weep openly, remembering the grim retreat out of Reikos only a handful of years ago, when Haros Water and Riverwatch fell to this very same foe. Some weep also when they remember what happened to the people left behind, in the clutches of the Druj, in a land dominated by the cruelest orcs.
But their tears are just tears; the healing power infused into the waters has been left behind in Zenith.
Game Information : Zenith
During the Winter Solstice, the Druj appear to have used their sinister arts to set in motion a transformation that has begun the process of turning Proceris into a stinking marshland. The region has gained the marsh quality. This may be connected to the establishment of black monoliths, but that seems to be only part of the process.
The entire territory is now under the control of the Druj - any character whose personal resource is in Zenith suffers the conquered territory penalty to production unless it is secured with the Vale of Shadows. Any Urizen from Zenith who wishes to evacuate may e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and request a new rank 1 resource in Morrow or Redoubt without paying the normal 2 crown handling charge for changing their resource.
A handful of Zenith spires are protected with Night magic from the orcs of the Mallum; the rest are either destroyed or in imminent danger of attack.
Sentinels, I am proud of each and everyone of you. For some of you, this will be the last season you will fight for some time. Make the Grendel pay for how they have made us suffer. We will cut them down. We will make them break. We will fight them in Ankra, we will fight them in Ossuary, we will fight them in Screed. Leave them the coast. Do not approach Apulus. Fight well. Fight with Pride. Regain our Strength. Make me Proud.General of the Citadel Guard
Leviathan Wakes (Spiral)
The Black Plateau growls and shifts restlessly in its sleep.
Two armies take the Crow Road out of Spiral - the Fire of the South and the Green Shield leave shortly after the Winter Solstice. Four armies pass them in the other direction. The Towerjacks return from their furlough in Sarvos. Both Imperial Orc armies, fresh from fighting the Jotun on the western front, march through the pass.
The Empire prepares for one final push, The Grendel secure their positions. The Black Plateau rumbles and mutters.
Thirty three thousand soldiers raise their banners. Nearly fourteen thousand troops commanded by independent captains - ten thousand at least supporting the Summer Storm alone. Two legions of knights called from the Summer Realm march with the Imperials, alongside the Summer Storm and the Towerjacks. Bound to fight with the Empire by the same magicians of Dawn who set the glorious contingent to aid their own armies in Semmerholm.
It has been a dark time for our people, but our light hums with a fury that will not die. Be daring, alongside our brothers and sisters of the Empire. Take what is theirs, make yourself prosperous. And stay vigilant, do not listen to the whispers of the plateau. I will drink with you all soon.General of the Red Wind Corsairs
The Imperial strategy is complex. Some strike for Ossuary, others to Ankra, seeking to exploit the foothold the Empire has secured in seasons past and the Grendel have failed to dislodge. One heads straight for Screed and...
More of that later. The Red Wind Corsairs, urged to ignore the whispering of the Black Plateau, hunt living prey through the dry valleys, through the foothills, through the scrubby forests. Wealth is recovered, prisoners captured, baggage trains disrupted. They strike with relative impunity; the Grendel are dug in and their ability to respond to the corsairs is limited at best. High value "guests" are relieved of their valuables and returned to their comrades for princely sums. They join once more with the Wolves of War, and with the Northern Eagle, and lay siege to Ossuary pushing mile by mile towards the shining prize - the Legacy.
At the same time the Towerjacks and the Citadel Guard strike west into Ankra. The Imperial Orc armies reinforce them from Cinion. The Grendel soldiers try to stand their ground but they are outnumbered and outclassed. In spite of the magic that grants them supernal strategic advantages, they cannot stand against what has come against them. The four Imperial armies crush the limited Grendel resistance, catching them and driving them east and south. Armies beneath banners of twining eels, resplendant turtles, forced to retreat before the hammer of the Empire into the crucible of Ossuary.
The Heroes of Anvil have lost many. We will repay this debt in Death. Cut them down wherever you find the enemy. The drowned Urizen in Water, we drown them in Blood.General of the Summer Storm
Ankra is liberated by the Empire. The great host does not pause, moving quickly to join their allies in Ossuary. The Iron Helms...
No. Later. The massed forces of the Empire lay siege to the Legacy. The Grendel fight tooth-and-nail to keep the mithril mine. Two weeks it takes to finally breach their defences. The Eel and the Turtle banner join the Stone Gyre, but they are not enough. The general commanding the orc troops refuses to give the order to retreat, it seems. It is only towards the end, when the Empire is battering down her door, that she allows her troops to flee south. If not for the intervention of the Sand Pipers and the Salt Dogs, the armies would have been crushed like eggs in a vice. The slaughter is... a thousand dead orcs, hundreds of dead Imperials. The mithril of the Legacy is drowned in blood, stained with defeat.
The Black Plateau hungers. Tides of madness and death ebb and flow. Restful sleep becomes a luxury. Fear, rage, doubt, confusion, despair. These are the currency with which Ossuary is bought. What came before, what the armies who have fought here over the last year have experienced, is as nothing to what comes now.
But two regions are liberated. Thousands of orcs dead.
We Join our 2nd legion kin and charge head long into west ranging in Sprial. We scream the name of Thrace and in his name we shall overwhelm the Grendal in our assault. Loud still ring the voices from the mines of old. Free this land of the barbarian skum. Show no mercy... For the Empire... For ThraceGeneral of the Winter Sun
The Iron helms come at last to Screed. Perhaps it was inevitable, in a way. With the soldiers travel magicians from the darkest parts of Varushka - cabalists well versed in the arts of bargaining, and the dark spirits they have chained. They meet the Iron Gulls, supported and supplied by marines and the Grendel legionnaries that serve the navies. They build on the successes the Empire has already had, pushing the orcs back towards the coast. They fight without quarter. Any orc that falls into their hands is torn apart by dogs, crucified, impaled, ripped limb from limb. They have gone beyond mercy, beyond humanity perhaps. What begins as cruelty escalates quickly. They are in the shadow of the Black Plateau - their actions call to it, and it answers. A circle of power begins to flow. Hate begetting hate, fear feeding fear. The Black Plateau rouses.
Into the shadow of the Black Plateau the Iron Helms come. There, as the sun sets, the cabalists begin to weave their magic. Bolstered by the knowledge that they have the full support of the priests, and the generals they draw on old pacts. They call to the shadows beneath the trees of distant Miekarova and Volomartz, on the blackness that waits beneath the hills of Karsk and Karov. They draw it to them, streamers of cold, hungry darkness. And then they turn it loose upon the Grendel.
At the moment their rite is completed, every living thing in Spiral knows it. The presence of the Black Plateau is suddenly impossible to ignore. From Ankra to Apulus every single thinking being is suddenly absolutely aware of the location of the Black Plateau. Heads snap round. Sleeping soldiers jerk awake. The fighting pauses. There is a moment of absolute silence, that seems to stretch timelessly... and then everything snaps back into focus.
The stage is set. Curses rain upon us and the Beast has made their move. Now it is time for The Bravo to take the stage and win the day. Charge like heroes of Holberg into Ankra, then Screed, then Ossuary. Throw these bad actors off the stageGeneral of the Towerjacks
Yet everyone in the territory - human and orc - is left with a profound awareness of the Iron Helms. They know where they are, and they know every time one of them slaughters an orc. Every time they tie a captured prisoner between two saplings and let them be torn in half. Every time they burn a Grendel merchant alive. Every time they set their dogs on orcs desperate to surrender. Every time they break the legs of a scout and tie them, still living, to a gibbet for the crows to feast on.
It is bad enough for the Imperials; it is hard to imagine how terrible it must be for the Grendel.
If the Black Plateau was restless before... the intensity of the dreams and visions it brings seems to double over the next few nights. It becomes harder and harder to tell what is real and what is a phantasmagoric hallucination. Supplies of liao run dangerously low as soldiers desperately seek the solace of anointing. The violence, if anything, escalates even further. Only the Red Wind Corsairs and the Wolves of War seem capable of remembering what quarter is - perhaps thanks to the tenor of their orders. Those Imperial soldiers whose generals have urged them to give in to the power that is lose in Spiral, to cut the Grendel down, to take revenge, to hate.. they revel in it, in the slaughter. The worst are the orc armies, and the Towerjacks, who begin to echo some of the atrocities of the Iron Helms, but the Citadel Guard and the Northern Eagle likewise begin to seek out opportunities to slake their thirst for blood on the orcs. For their part, the Grendel match the Imperial ferocity blood for blood. They fall back, but it is clear their generals are struggling to keep them under control. They stand and fight when they should retreat. The Black Eels and the Brine Turtles seem least effected, but their relative discipline is more than made up for by the Salt Dogs, Sand Pipers, and the Stone Gyre.
The schemes of our enemies have robbed us of the mercenaries that make our force so flexible. But we shall not be deterred. We advance into Ankra, then Ossuary then Screed, making no attack on any coastal regions or fortifications. Where we meet the Grendel, whether they defend or attack, we shall engage them. We shall not press hard to drive them back, instead our assault will be measured and careful. We hold back until we see the banners of the Summer Storm and the Iron Helms. Only then do we surge forward to give our enemies the dead reckoning they're owed.General of the Wolves of War
The Iron helms take Screed. The Grendel there retreat south and east. Some to the fortified port of Apulian, some to the south-eastern border, to Apulus, to rendezvous with the forces driven south by the main bulk of the Imperial armies. There, on the lower slops of Apstrus, in the shadow of Solen's Doubt the final battle of the season is fought.
It is carnage. Absolute. A frenzy of bloodletting, of savagery. Unspeakable. Indescribable.
The Salt Dogs break first, turning on their own officers in their frenzy to escape. As they fragment, a panic runs through the Grendel ranks like a wildfire. The Sand Pipers break next, abandoning their positions and cutting through their own baggage train in their madness. The Stone Gyre try to turn them back, and within moments the two Grendel forces are at each others' throats. Madness. Chaos reigns.
Those generals still in command of their troops, lead by the cool heads of the Black Eels and the Brine Turtles, begin to sound the retreat. The Stone Gyre refuse. The madness is in them, the terror of the Iron Helms has unhinged their reason. They charge the Imperial lines and are cut to shreds. It is impossible to tell what is happening. Human and orc bodies lie in drifts, the dead and the dying comingled, trampled by both sides in the confusion and...
And then the Black Plateau wakes up.
Everyone fighting in the shadow of Solen's Doubt knows the exact moment when it happens. It is as if a pressure has been building, unfelt, unheard, for the last year and suddenly it has been released. There is a sound, and a sensation of movement, of overwhelming nausea. Every dark thought, every painful memory is suddenly brought to the fore. Roughly five hundred Imperials - including all the cabalists who roused the terror in the night - go mad or die in that instant, their minds or their hearts breaking into shards.
The Iron Helms wull unleash Terror in the Night on the Grendel in Spiral, across the Black PlateauGeneral of the Iron Helms
The battle of Solen's Doubt ends in that moment. The commanders on both sides desperately pull their armies apart but it is no easy task. The bloodlust reigns supreme. And it is not just aimed at the enemy. Every slight, every little niggle, every suspicion is let loose in a flood as the Black Plateau becomes ascendant. Soldiers who have bickered in the past draw steel against each other. Not every dispute is rational, or real. One soldier stabs another in the back shouting incoherently about an imagined infidelity. Others break and flee, howling like beasts, their reason fled.
The elfin knights fighting alongside the Summer Storm and the Towerjacks depart en masse. They retreat north in as much disarray as the Imperial armies, and withdraw almost immediately to the nearest Summer regio where they depart the mortal realm. Those who saw them leave say that they were pale and brittle, confused and afraid, uncertain, profoundly uncertain and full of doubts.
The Black Plateau is awake.
The Empire withdraws its forces to Ossuary, leaving the remaining Grendel in control of Apstrus and the southern coast.
After the initial surge of madness, the power of the Plateau recedes a little but nobody in Spiral is left in any doubt that it is awake, whatever that means. Everyone knows exactly where it is, a weight on the skein of their pereception. Looked at directly, it is the same as it always has been - a great lump of black volcanic glass. Seen from the corner of the eye - and in dreams - it is the centre of a howling gyre of hatred and despair, a whirling column that reaches up into the clouds, churning ceaselessly.
Cautious Advance to OssuaryGeneral of the Northern Eagle
The Empire controls Spiral - technically at least. They have conquered Ankra, Ossuary, and Screed. Along with Cinion, they now own Spiral. They have also recaptured the Legacy, the mithril mine in Ossuary. Around two thousand Imperals are dead, as compared to perhaps as many as six thousand Grendel orcs. Many are unaccounted for, scattered in the moment the Black Plateau awoke. The Grendel have lost three whole armies to the terror of the Iron helms and the merciless ferocity of the Imperial armies.
And the Black Plateau... is awake.
Game Information : Spiral
The Empire now controls Spiral, and it may now be assigned by the Senate. The Legacy is back in Imperial hands and may be allocated during the Spring Equinox as either Imperial or National position. If it is allocated it will be available to appoint, and receive its first share of mithril, during the Summer Solstice.
The Grendel have lost three entire armies - the Salt Dogs, the Sand Pipers, and the Stone Gyre.
However... the Black Plateau is now active to a degree unprecedented in the history of the Empire. This has a number of effects, many of which are not yet clear. What is certain for the time being however is:
- Every army fighting in Spiral will take 25% additional casualties going forward
- It is impossible to receive natural resupply in Spiral
- Any army that sends the season in Spiral will lose 5% of its maximum fighting strength over the course of that season even if it is not engaged.
- Personal resources have their production reduced by a quarter; this includes fleets and military units. The nightmares and the oppressive power of the Black Plateau encourages any living person in Spiral to leave.
- The mithril in the Legacy appears to shield the workers there somewhat, but there are few workers prepared to make the trip to Ossuary given the recent history of the mithril mine and the constant threat of the Black Plateau. As a consequence the upkeep of the Legacy has been doubled for the forseeable future.
Over the last few years there have been several magical rituals designed to deal with the Black Plateau. None of those rituals will have any effect, for good or ill, on the active Black Plateau. Indeed, it is highly unlikely that any ritual magic will be effective against the Black Plateau in its current roused state.
Finally ... even though the Urizen now control Spiral, it is a poor substitute for Zenith, which they have lost entirely. Consequently, the Citadel Guard is still in danger of disbanding. The civil service predicts that Urizen will need to conquer at least one more region of Spiral if they are to support their army.
Anyone who wishes to roleplay there were present during the recent campaign is free to create their own horror stories of things they have encountered, based around themes of creeping fear, haunting phantasms, eerie dreams, gnawing suspicion, and outbursts of uncontrolled anger. As the campaign escalates, these experiences become more visceral, and more horrific - although any player character is assumed to have sufficient mental fortitude to have resisted the worst excesses caused by the malignant force of the Black Plateau... up to a point.
Every player whose military unit supported an army in Spiral this season, and the generals of those armies, will receive a curse card in their packs at the event.
Assured Destruction (Major Conjunctions)
The Civil Service have detected four major conjunctions of the Sentinel Gate during the Spring Equinox. Each provides an opportunity for the heroes of the Empire to influence the direction of one of the ongoing campaigns against the barbarian orcs.
Prognosticator Atraxes has noted that three of these conjunctions are fluid and not fixed to a specific day. This means that the gate can be opened on either Saturday or Sunday, but not both. The fourth conjunction can only be used on Sunday, should the Military Council wish to make use of it.
- The first conjunction is to the site of Lerrovac's Camp, in Murderdale, in the Barrens. The area contains a significant number of Imperial prisoners, held at the mercy of a powerful Druj Tepel and a major force of orc warriors.
- A second conjunction will allow travel to the Spring Hills, in Sermersuaq. Located above the hot springs of Tiniki, a large Jotun force is resting there, gathering their strength for the coming season.
- A third portal offers an opportunity to reach a Summer regio on the Westerhal Trail, West Marsh, Kallavesa. The raiding parties that have spent the last year maintaining the Jotun presence in Kallavesa have begun to gather there, potentially with the intention of beginning to solidify their hold over the West Marsh region.
- The final conjunction, available only on Sunday, allows the heroes of Anvil to visit the Gethern Expanse in Screed, Spiral. A force of elite Grendel mercenaries are heading towards this location, although what they intend to do when they get there is not known at this time.
By the time of the Spring Equinox summit, the Civil Service will have completed reports for each of these conjunctions, which will be presented to the generals during the Muster. The final decision about which major conjunctions to exploit, and who will take part in the battles, is the heavy responsibility of the Imperial Military Council alone.
A further quartet of large conjunctions have been identified early on Saturday evening of the Spring Equinox. Two open portals in East Floes, Sermersuaq close to the location of engagements against drowned dead during the Winter Solstice. The second pair of conjunctions allow passage to the final two Spring Regio known to exist in West Ranging, Liathaven.
Imperial prognosticators are also preparing additional information relating to a number of smaller conjunctions over the course of the summit that will be of relevance to the Military Council, individuals from the various nations, and other parties. A summary of the identified conjunctions will be provided nearer the summit, with additional details passed to national egregores and civil servants of the Military Council.