383YE Winter Solstice winds of war
- 1 Overview
- 2 Fire and Hemlock
- 3 The Game
- 4 Hexwood
- 5 Homeward Bounders
- 6 Power of Three
- 7 Hidden Turnings
The Winds of War blow across the Empire, and beyond. Since the Autumn Equinox, Imperial armies have fought to protect their borders - and in some cases to expand them. Here we learn about the results of those campaigns. Not necessarily their resolutions, because it is rare for such things to have an ending. Rather, the state of the tide. Advancing or falling back, taken at the flood, or ebbing away.
The Heirs of Terunael strike at the Empire from within, igniting a fire of chaos and ruin in the north, the east, and the west. Heroes of the Empire have risen to meet that fire, to brave the poison these treacherous briars seek to spread with the aid of their unnatural allies. In the north and the east, their schemes are rent to tatters; in the west however they have achieved their goals, and the myriad spawn of the vallorn spread from the tainted heart to devour steadings, slaughter stridings, and threaten orc and human alike.
In the far south-west, the Brass Coast is wracked by war... and by peace. The tide rises and recedes. In Segura the Empire is victorious, slowly driving the Lasambrian Jotun back toward their barbarian hills. In Feroz, the Empire recedes, withdrawing from land traded to the Grendel invaders in return for peace. A high price, perhaps, for a people who pride themselves on known the value of everything and insisting on a fair trade.
Further north, but still on the west coast, the Empire brings to bear a great force of Imperial soldiers to meet the challenge of the Jotun invasion. The Empire and the western orcs clash bloodily across through the fens and marshes of Bregasland. With the thirty-year-old defeat in the Mournwold still fresh in the minds of the obdurate Marchfolk, an unexpected spectre from the distant past rises to remind everyone once again that nobody holds grudges like a Marcher...
That said, while nobody holds grudges like a Marcher, perhaps the Urizen come close. It has been nearly two years since the Highborn armies fought their slow retreat across Zenith, since the refugees sought sanctuary in Morrow and Redoubt. Now Imperial armies march beneath the cold stone gaze of the Three Watchers and the campaign of liberation begins. Only careful strategy prevents the Imperial forces walking into a trap - and while they manage to avoid the Druj treachery they are unable to make headway in the mountains of north-eastern Urizen. Still, it could certainly have been worse - and there are hints that the orc occupation of Zenith is not as secure as they might hope to believe.
At the same time as the Empire is pushing into Zenith, two armies of Jotun and a major contingent of yegarra launch a surprise attack through Pakanaan's Pass into Skarsind... at roughly the same time as the Freeborn Fire of the South sets off from Ossium to escort thousands of orc refugees to their new home. Battle rages for control of the pass, with the exhausted Freeborn soldiers doing their best to stop the western orcs capturing too much Imperial Orcs territory. The Battle of Clattering Gulley is won - for now - but the Jotun are by no means done with the people of Skarsind.
Fire and Hemlock
It has been many years since the vallorn of Hercynia last stirred, but now the so-called Heirs of Terunael have roused it to wakefulness. As in the past, when its slumber is disturbed, it strikes out with unmatched viciousness. The ettercaps and vallornspawn of its dark heart seek out opportunities for bloodshed and slaughter to a degree not seen among the creatures that surround the other fallen Terunael cities.
|Bors De Carsenere||Dawn|
|Enchantress Olivia Sepulchre||Dawn|
|Guy Grimbold the Elder||Dawn|
|Logan Olivia De Havelland of house Cordraco||Dawn|
|Lord Armand Remys||Dawn|
|Lord Edmund the Enchanter of House Torawyr||Dawn|
|Mal` Lassal Scethos||Dawn|
|Roger de Scavilare||Dawn|
|Torag Du Soleil||Dawn|
|Ames the Amiable||Highguard|
|Gaterender Brik||Imperial Orcs|
|Ieuan Fallow Deer||Navarr|
|Aneira Exiles End||Navarr|
|Bryn Iron Hill||Navarr|
|Farren Silver Streams||Navarr|
|Gerallt Two Feet||Navarr|
|Keelia Scorched Pine||Navarr|
|Rhyffyllann Longest Path||Navarr|
|David, Jademist, Guerra||The Brass Coast|
|Miel I Gurrea||The Brass Coast|
|Arrabella Di Sarvos||The League|
|Jonathan Thresher of Alderly||The Marches|
|Alderei the Fair||Varushka|
|Alexsei Grigoryevich Strascovich||Varushka|
|Vuk The Wolfeater||Varushka|
What began with a few scattered encounters around the borders of Deer's Folly soon threatens to become a full-fledged disaster. The heart of the vallorn touches each of the other four regions of Hercynia, and the creatures that teem and multiply in its depths are able to strike at steadings and stridings across the territory. Even the Northpines are not entirely free from danger - although the threat to the Navarr dwelling in the western peaks arises not from the dreadful creatures of the vallorn, but from sympathisers and agents of the Heirs of Terunael.
As abominations spill out of Deer's Folly, the traitors hiding in plain sight unleash more subtle weapons. They seek to use betrayal, sabotage, assassination, and deception to weaken the defenders and smooth the path for vallornspawn. Nor are all of these agents of Navarr birth; the Silent Bell were able to identify two groups of Varushkan cabalists aiding the Heirs, and there are rumours of folk from even farther afield turning on their hosts and seeking to unleash the power of Yaw'nagrah against them. Yet the vigilance of the Synod, and of the Silent Bell, have provided the people of Hercynia with crucial advance warning of the Heirs of Terunael and their schemes - and provided opportunities to counter them.
We have lived in fear of the vallorn for too long, but now I say to you. The vallorn does not bring death, but life. It does not harm, but heals. Its vast, vibrant power is not to be opposed, but to be embraced.Fenella of Fellorich Striding, Heirs of Terunael
Even before the attacks began in earnest, these allies of Yaw'nagrah, these self-proclaimed scions of ancient Terunael, brought the corrosive power of Spring magic to bear against the people of Hercynia. Shortly before the Autumn Equinox, the waters of Hercynia began to show signs that they had been infested with the illegal power of Rivers Run Red, bringing the threat of infection and sickness to add to the dangers posed by the vallornspawn and ettercaps. The vates of Navarr are quick to respond - the Voice of the Quiet Forest rally their allies and draw on the more positive aspects of the Spring realm to counter the curse of pestilence the Heirs have raised. Yet the attempted tainting of the waters is only the most obvious of the Heir's schemes. Rituals of sickness, savagery, and ruin are brought to bear across the territory, striking at the walls of steadings, infesting food supplies with flies and maggots, sowing chaos among the defenders of town and striding alike.
The protectors of Hercynia employ magic of their own as well. As the vallorn spews forth its unnatural hordes, so that magic settles across Hercynia. It is as if the entire territory resists the incursion from its heart; magical fortresses twine and twist from the woodlands of the Glen of Shadows, from Old Ranging, and from Summersend as the Voice of the Quiet Forest continue to weave Spring magic in defence of the people of Hercynia. At the same time, a mighty castle of white stone and black ice rises in the foothills of North Pines, a frozen citadel drawn from the demesne of Cathan Canae by the Eternal Family. With the forest and the mountain aiding the defenders, the vallornspawn are contained.
Magic alone will not win the day, however. That task falls to the hundred or so independent captains who answer the call to action with their friends and allies. The majority of these are Navarr and Dawnish, bolstered by significant numbers of Winterfolk, and every imperial nation is represented among the heroes that come to Hercynia. Some fight the vallorn and its spawn directly; others track down the hidden threat of the Heirs of Terunael and seek to stymie their treacherous plans. Each individual battle, each confrontation, serves to further undermine the plans of the Heirs and their allies. Even with advance warning, the unbound power of vallornspawn, and ettercap, and corrupt magic, the threat of assassins' knives, poisoned wells, and burning brands, and the sheer madness of the Heirs' cause might have been sufficient to overwhelm the defenders of Hercynia.
The Mother has given us gifts, and now she calls our account due. A green tide shall wash over the Empire, and we are chosen to be its harbingers.Roman Andrevich, Cabal of the Green Mother
As it is, the battle is very close. Despite best efforts, a tide of chitinous ettercaps is able to reach the storied steading of Treji, just in time for conjured vines to tear great holds in the defences. Lives are lost - but the defenders manage to stand against the howling horde of insect-horrors and turn them back before they can overwhelm the settlement. Without the magical defenders provided by forest and mountain, without the courage of the heroes and soldiers of the Empire, Treji would have fallen.
The attack against the Heartwood of the Great Vale is more subtle but no less potentially disastrous for all that. A band of Varushkan cabalists calling themselves the "Cabal of the Green Mother" seek to burn the weirwood forest to the ground, supported by abominable heralds of Yaw'nagrah. The vigilance of the defenders stymies their effort, but it is only the strength of the Imperial response to the call for heroes that prevents serious damage to the forests. The ferocity of the cabalists attack continues to raise questions about precisely what the relationship between weirwood and the vallorn might be.
We the Highborn again go to Therunin to fight cultists threatening the Empire. With Virtue we the Valiant Pegasus will scour this threat from the area. With the Virtues guiding us.Lucifer, General of the Valiant Pegasus
In the north, the Heirs of Terunael are faced by magic, and by heroes. In the south, they face the might of the military council. The Valiant Pegasus has come to Therunin, where they serve as the backbone of the defence against the might of the vallorn. Their numbers are bolstered by some five thousand soldiers belonging to independent captains from Highguard, Navarr, and the Imperial Orcs. A further thirty or more captains - predominantly Navarr with a smattering of Dawnish knights - bring their warbands to the territory to fight the Heirs directly without the cumbersome protection of an army.
As in Hercynia, Imperial magicians have drawn down the power of the realms to bolster the defence. The Voice of the Quiet Forest rouses the wholesome woodlands of Eastring, weaving a wooden fastness there to shelter those fighting the incursion of the vallorn. The Sussivari Frost Coven from far-away Wintermark weaves their own magic over the marshes of East Ashes, crafting a pall of living mist that conceals the valiant guardians and confounds the senses of both treacherous briar and ravening vallornspawn alike.
|Baddon Red Oaks||Navarr|
|Eleri Bronwen's Rest||Navarr|
|Hen Was Silverthorn||Navarr|
|Karrow Strangers Song||Navarr|
|Travid Longest Path||Navarr|
The Silent Bell reported fewer Heirs in the marshy woodlands of Therunin than in cold Hercynia, but the vallorn here is considerably larger and while it may be less vicious it is none-the-less a cunning and malignant opponent. Here, the Heirs rouse the ettercaps and the vallornspawn, but they also seek to foster madness among the great insects that roam the warm forests, and to raise the ire of the marshwalkers against the people of Therunin. Their numbers may be few but they are bolstered by Urizeni magicians and sentinels of Greenfountain Spire in Peregro - traitors who bring powerful magic to bear in pursuit of their crazed desire to overrun the eastern Navarr territory with the abominations of Sweetglades and Greenheart.
Yet the Navarr too have allies they can call on. The Great Forest Orcs have built their settlements in the Lower Tarn Valley, but their people are scattered across the territory trading and hunting. They may have questions for their Navarr hosts about the wisdom of treating with the Druj, but they are not slow to come to the aid of their neighbours. When the Heirs sought to wrap Therunin in a curse of sickness, the orcs quickly marshalled their forces to remove that curse. The Spears of the Pine, fresh from fighting the Heirs in Brocéliande, return to the Tarn Valley to protect their homes, and the building site of the Holt of the Oak. They are quick to coordinate with the defenders of Peakedge Song, and with the brands of steadings across Therunin.
The tide is rising, and the time has come to once again cover the land in trees. Beneath the cool shadow of the oaks, beneath the spreading boughs of the elm, we will meditate upon the revelations of the Green Mother. The vallorn is a tool with which we shall remake the world.Agrippina of Greenfountain
While there are a multitude of monstrous foes in Therunin, as in Hercynia the threat comes as much from treachery as from beasts and heralds of Yaw'Nagrah. If not for the courage of the defenders, the Docks at Feverwater would have been crippled by a trio of abnormally large hydra rising from the deep waters, drawn by the siren songs of the Heirs of Terunael. If not for the vigilance of the Highborn, a scheme to poison the orcs labouring to complete the Holt of the Oak might have been successful, leaving them defenceless against the swarm of spore-crazed dire beetles pouring out of Greenheart. Without the dogged determination of the Imperial Orcs patrolling near Peakedge Stead, a plan to tear open the gates with ritual magic might have come to fruition allowing a river of vallornspawn to flood past the defences and butcher the physicks and herbalists at work in the hospital there.
The Empire sees the mark of Spring within us as a taint, a mark that we are not to be trusted. They are afraid that we will learn the truth; that it is the Empire that is corrupt. It is old, and sick, and full of complexity and two-faced double-dealers. By embracing the green song of the vallorn, we will learn to stand free of that corruption and grow at last unfettered by the rule of cowards.Clevorn of Greenstride Steading, Heirs of Terunael
There are also significant battles in Therunin, make no mistake. Violence spreads across the entire territory. While the walls of Peakedge Stead are preserved, the vallornspawn still come to smash themselves against them. While the hydra are diverted from the Feverwater Docks, they are only the harbingers of a force of terrible beasts that emerge from the marshes of the Mallum and from the vallorn heart to attack steadings across East Ashes and East Ring. The fiercest fighting takes place in the peaceful woodlands surrounding the Thimble - a major force of ettercaps and heralds lead by not one but three immense, twisted marshwalkers attempt to destroy not only the settlement there but also the trees themselves. Indeed, it seems as if the entire force of Greenfountain Spire - the Urizen traitors - is focused around somehow undoing the weirwood forest there in an echo of the attack against the Heartwood of the Great Vale in Hercynia. They are turned back, but at great cost to the defenders. Not one steading or striding in Therunin is untouched by the treachery of the Heirs of Terunael, but as the Winter approaches it is clear that the defenders have been sufficient to prevent widespread loss of life. While the beasts of the vallorn, and the giant insects, and the marshwalkers are dangerous they are still beasts - and without the direction of the Heirs their attacks falter and their numbers dwindle. For all their malice, the numbers of Heirs and Urizen directing these forces are limited and each victory, each traitor brought to justice, reduces the ability of the enemy to weave their magic and direct their servants. The attacks lessen, but the worry remains. How many of the briars still living in Therunin can be trusted? How many are merely sleeping tools of the conspiracy arrayed against the Navarr?
For now though, the battle is done. The Heirs are in retreat, and while there has been some loss of life, the damage to the people and the steadings is limited.
While conflict engulfs across Hercynia and Therunin, there is little news from Liathaven. It seems that the Heirs of Terunael are unchallenged there, their schemes unfold without the intervention of the heroes of the Empire.
There are few enough Imperial people still in Liathaven of course. Years of violence have seen to that. While the vallorn's hold over the territory has been greatly reduced, the woodlands are still dominated by the Jotun. There are Feni settlers in the northern forest, it is true, but the Empire has little contact with them and little reason to imagine that they are especially friendly to Imperial citizens. There is a network of scouts in Liathaven of course, but they have not reported the specifics of the Heirs' operations here Perhaps the Jotun have contained them. Perhaps not.
The withering curse of Winter magic still lies across Liathaven, that much is clear. If Yaw'Nagrah possesses the power to remove that curse, the eternal seems unwilling - or unable - to do so. Those few Navarr left in the territory have no doubt suffered at the claws of the vallornspawn and the heralds of Yaw'nagrah - as a territory outside the aegis of the Imperial Conclave it is likely that the spawn of the Green Mother have had unfettered access to the forests here. What few reports have filtered out say that the damage to the remaining steadings here has been extensive, bordering on the catastrophic. While there is no danger of the vallorn itself spreading, there are reportedly dangerous pockets of vallorn-tainted creatures in all the remaining regions of the territory that will need to be dealt with in the event the Empire returns to liberate the beleaguered territory.
They may also need to deal with the Heirs of Terunael. In the absence of concrete information it is dangerous to speculate, but it seems likely that whatever goals the treacherous briars were pursuing in Liathaven, they have likely achieved. It remains to be seen what that will mean for the south-western Empire.
There is one other battlefield where the Heirs of Terunael are active; the hearts and souls of those with briar lineage.
As in Brocéliande last season, a more subtle force than traitors and vallornspawn is at play in Hercynia, Therunin, and Liathaven. Many of the defenders are unaware of it, but those with the briar lineage across these territories experience strange dreams whenever they try to sleep. Their nights are full of images of pristine wilderness untouched by human hands, where they are free to live as they wish among others who share their appreciation for a quiet, rewarding life where everything makes sense. These dreams offer a stark contrast to the barrage of complexities that surround life in the Empire. Some experience dreams of acceptance and comradeship - something many of them have never really known given the attitudes of many Imperial citizens to those with Spring magic in their veins. The details of the dreams differ from person to person but at their heart all contain the same unsettling image; a beautiful figure draped in flowers, arms outstretched to them calling them home.
As the dreams become more intense, some of those briars fighting in Therunin and Hercynia begin to experience an unsettling physical change. Unnatural flowers begin to sprout from patches of bark, and in their hair. This prompts further suspicion - there are wild rumours that these flowers presage some inevitable shift within the heart of the briars, causing them to abandon their fellows and welcome the twisted embrace of Yaw'nagrah or of the vallorn. Some briars remove them as soon as they appear, but that does not prevent rumour and scaremongering spreading the news of their appearance among the defenders. The Navarr are suspicious of briars at the best of time, and these flowers do nothing to dampen this suspicion - whatever the priests of the Synod may say.
The dreams are not, apparently, restricted to the heroes who have come to defend Hercynia and Therunin. There are not many briars in the Navarr nations, but from steading and striding alike come tales of briars acting oddly, experiencing strange dreams, and blossoming with unnatural flowers. Given that the unifying trait of the Heirs of Terunael is that they are all briars - some of whom have struck against their neighbours with surprising treachery it is perhaps unsurprising that suspicion of those with the Spring lineage is escalating in the Navarr nation.
Game Information : Hercynia, Therunin, and Liathaven
The campaign is very close, but in the end the Empire is able to keep the Heirs of Terunael from inflicting significant damage in Hercynia. Lives are still lost, and many steadings and stridings damaged, but the vallorn are turned back and the schemes of the Heirs of Terunael are defeated. Whatever plans the Heirs of Terunael had for Hercynia have been ruined by the actions of Imperial heroes, and the power of Imperial magicians. Likewise, Whatever schemes the Heirs of Terunael and their Urizen allies may have had in Therunin have likewise been stymied by a combination of vigilant soldiers, clever ritual magic, and the courage of heroic military captains. They are in disarray, and their endeavours in Therunin and Hercynia have suffered significant setbacks such that they will not be in a position to threaten either territory again for at least a year.
In both territories, several of their leaders and many of their foot soldiers have been slain or exposed. The civil service confirm that there will be an opportunity to attempt to capture or kill some of the ringleaders of these unprovoked attacks during the coming Solstice. Further details will be provided in Winds of Fortune.
That is not to say that the Navarr territories have escaped completely unscathed, however. In Therunin, the Thimble has been preserved, but its production has been halved for the coming season. It will not require any additional repairs however. At the same time every forest, farm, herb garden, business, congregation, mine, and mana site in the territory has suffered a 1 rank reduction to their production but this penalty will have run its course by the end of the Winter Solstice, restoring production to normal going forward.
The situation in Liathaven is significantly worse. Following the unfettered chaos of the vallornspawn in the territory, a further 10 Thrones each season will be diverted from the Imperial Treasury to support those Imperial citizens still in Liathaven. Every forest, farm, herb garden, business, congregation, mine, and mana site in the territory will suffer a 1 rank penalty for the next year. Worse, vallornspawn have infested the territory and will represent a significant threat to any military force that enters the territory until they are dealt with.
Participation : Hercynia and Therunin
Military units (and forests) that took the Protect Hercynia or Protect Therunin actions will suffer damage as described in the wind of fortune. Each such military unit suffers a reduction to their effective fighting strength for the next six months, representing soldiers lost or crippled in the fight against the savage vallornspawn. This penalty will be applied to the character rather than the resource; paying to change personal resource to a different resource will not clear this penalty. In the event that a character uses a ritual such as Conclave of Trees and Shadow to turn a different personal resource into a military unit, the penalty will still apply and will persist when the resource turns back - the essence of the resource has been depleted by the damage caused from fighting in the vallorn miasma.
The captain of such a military units will also receive rewards pledged by the people of Therunin and Hercynia. In Hercynia, this amounts to five random ingots of metal while in Therunin it is five random herbs, with an additional ingot or herb (as appropriate) for each rank of upgrade or enchantment.
Military units attached to the Valiant Pegasus do not suffer damage, but neither do they receive any special rewards - the assumption among the people of Therunin is that they will be recompensed by the Military Council as normal. The Valiant Pegasus has suffered casualties; these casualties will be mitigated by orders as usual.
Every character whose military unit participated in the Protect Hercynia or Protect Therunin actions (either directly, by supporting the Valiant Pegasus, or by being the general of the Valiant Pegasus) may have suffered a lingering injury. Such players may e-mail email@example.com to request a lingering traumatic wound. If you are not the general, and your military unit did not support the campaign here, please do not e-mail in. This opportunity to be horribly injured is available only to players who participated in the action. The traumatic wounds will be a mix of injuries sustained from ettercaps, vallorn influence, and potentially lingering curses from the Heirs of Terunael and their allies.
Any character with the briar lineage whose military unit supported the Protect Hercynia or Protect Therunin actions, or whose personal resource is in either of the effected territories or in Liathaven, will have experienced the peculiar dreams mentioned above. Furthermore, as with those briars who fought in Brocéliande during the previous season, they may have begun to manifest peculiar flowers that grow out of their bark or in their hair. Further details of exactly what this means will be included in the Winds of Fortune, but you have the option to acquire some flower phys-reps to add to your more usual lineage trappings. Flowers are not normally a permitted trapping for briars, this effect is an exception to the normal rules for those briars whose military units were in Brocéliande for this event.
In addition, all briars in the affected territories have experienced strange dreams that held out the offer of a simpler life. A better life, perhaps, for those who would create it. If you are playing a briar who would be sympathetic to this offer, and would like your character to have sought out the Heirs of Terunael to see what support you might offer them then you can email firstname.lastname@example.org before the 10thApril. We will provide you with an additional briefing sheet in your pack at the event, with the scant information your initial contact with the Heirs has revealed and telling you what you can do to help them. This is only available to characters with the briar lineage whose personal resource is in one of the three effected territories, or whose military unit supported the Valiant Pegasus, the Protect Hercynia, or the Protect Therunin actions. While other briars may have been in the area they have not had an opportunity to pursue contact with the Heirs of Terunael at this time.
If you are interested in finding out what the Heirs of Terunael are up to so that you can oppose them, we strongly recommend against emailing us. It is vastly more fun to be vigilant and seek out corruption in the Empire at the event when roleplaying your character, then to have your character already have found it all out in downtime by emailing Profound Decisions.
Last season, three Marcher armies formed a wall of steel across the south-western plains against an army of orcs that did not come. Shortly after the Autumn Equinox, those Marcher armies break camp and depart for the north - to where the Jotun continue their attempted conquest of Bregasland. In their stead come the Black Thorns, the Winter Sun, and the Red Wind Corsairs. Navarr, Imperial Orc, and Freeborn soldiers move together on the south-western plains, but rather than taking defensive positions they prepare to drive the invaders out of the Brass Coast.
After a hot Summer, a dry Autumn. Away from the rivers and the wells the grasslands are dry as kindling and brush fires a constant threat. Even at the best of times, fresh water is precious in Segura, and the armies must marshal barrels and skins carefully to combat thirst. Yet what water there is is infused with Spring magic, with potent healing energies that ensure a swift recovery for the injured - all save those with mortal wounds, or those executed by their foes. Yet as with most Spring magic, the ritual power brought to bear on Segura heals the enemy orcs as effectively as it heals the Imperial soldiers.
Corsairs, it is a high price we have paid to the Grendel though the time to make good on the time Feroz has bought us is now. We need wealth to win wars, and we need to know our enemy. Push deep into Segura, find their captains. It is high time we met these Lasambrian fools.Vrael i Sol-Devorador i Erigo, General of the Red Wind Corsairs
While the Empire prepares to advance, the Lasambrian Jotun remain on the defensive. The Corazón, the Hierro, and the Escuta seek to hold the territory they have claimed rather than further press their claim to Segura. The Empire, however, is not content to allow them to keep the land they have conquered. With some six thousand additional troops provided by Imperial captains, primarily supporting the Winter Sun, Imperial forces push west through Anozeseri. The orcs fight ferociously but step by step they are forced to fall back. Even with more than a thousand rough-and-ready orcs fighting under the banner of the Barren Hills, the Lasambrian Jotun cannot resist the Empire - all they can do is slow their progress a little. As Winter begins to approach, the barbarians lose their precarious foothold in Anozeseri and are forced to fall back toward into Anduzjasse.
Here, the three orc armies rally their forces, and face the Imperial advance. Operating from a fortified camp in the ruins of Old Anduz in the south-east, they harry the Imperials as best they can, their anger and frustration at their inability to maintain their grip on their ancestral lands, much less to reclaim Segura from the human "invaders", increasingly apparent in their desperate tactics. With the Winter Solstice on the horizon, the Empire is well on the way to driving the Lasambrian Jotun out of Segura.
Soldiers of the Winter Sun, we have spent a season chasing ghosts but now we charge to the defence of the Brass Coast. Sweep into Segura in a steady conquest and crush whatever stands against us. Our sisters and brothers of the coast have paid a heavy price so let us stand with them and respect their sacrifice.Morgor, General of the Winter Sun
Yet while the barbarian invaders seem prepared to make their stand at Anduz, not every force of Lasambrian Jotun soldiers has come to the defence of the town. As the Winter Solstice draws near, Navarr scouts report a sizeable force of orcs in the hills south of Yellow Chase not far from the border with Reinos. Numbers are inconclusive - the scouts were spotted by orc sentries and barely half their number made it back to Imperial lines to deliver their report. It seems that an armed camp made up primarily of Escuta and Corazón, have taken up defensive positions near the Caída - an old battleground that dates back to the formation of the Empire and lies in a depression amid the Western hills. The scouts were unable to get close, but reported that the orcs were excavating the dry soil there and seemed very keen to prevent Imperial eyes seeing what they were doing. Indeed, they have reportedly raised a makeshift stockade around their dig-site.
This might have been dismissed as merely another example of the Lasambrian orcs inexplicable fascination with digging things out of the ground in Segura if not for two further discoveries.
Firstly, when the Red Wind Corsairs intercepted a caravan heading south from the Caida toward Anduz they discovered that some of the covered wagons contained what seemed to be early Imperial weapons and armour alongside less recognisable artefacts of barbarian orc manufacture. Orcs captured alongside the artefacts and held for ransom would say little about what was taking place at the site but did confirm the presence in the Caida of powerful orc shaman named Junda the Grim. Junda is a favored lieutenant of Lefsnir Red-armed, General of the Escuta (the army who were once the Deep Bloods before their embrace of the Lasambrian cause). Junda is said to have a profound awareness of the ancestors of the "fourth tribe" - the tribe that once lived alongside the Hierro, Corazon, and Naguerro in Segura and Feroz if the Lasambrian orcs are to be believed.
The Valiant Pegasus and our National Captains defend our homes whilst we march west from Feroz and begin a steady conquest with the Winter Sun and Redwind Corsairs to drive the Lasambrian Jotun scum back into Reinos. We march through winter, make them pay winter's price. Drive them to the Abyss.Lleu Tarw, General of the Black Thorns
The Lasambrian Orcs are diverting resources to support this dig, resources that they sorely need for the defence of Anduz against the inevitable Imperial push. Whatever is happening there is important to them. Indeed, the civil service have reported that a major conjunction of the Sentinel Gate has been identified that seems to lead to the northern part of the Caida, not far from the excavation. Yet nobody can seem to find out why they are risking so much to support what looks on the surface to be little more than grave robbing. Or perhaps not quite nobody; according to the prognosticators they have received a letter from a Freeborn hermit by the name of Assio i Tambur i Gerra - a former custodian of Ghita's Veils - who claims to have further information about just why the Escuta and the Corazón are so interested in the Caida - information they intend to provide to the Imperial Necromancer and to nobody else.
The Lasambrian Jotun still maintain their control of the Western border, of the Kabalai palace, of the southernmost Towers of Anduz, and of the trading town itself, but it seems likely that unless they receive significant reinforcement, and if the Empire continues its advance, they will be driven out of the Brass Coast entirely by the start of the new year. Surely one old battlefield cannot provide the barbarians with the kind of advantage they would need to slow the Imperial advance? Surely...
While the Empire is reclaiming land claimed by the Jotun in the west, it is ceding land to the Grendel in the east. With the ink on the Grendel peace treaty barely dry, the Iron Gulls move forcefully into Afarjasse and Morajasse, claiming both regions for their own. The Grendel also take custody of the newly completed fortification of Moras Rock, with the captain of the garrison surrendering the castle to the smirking general of the Iron Gulls before retreating with all her soldiers across the northern borders into Madruga. The Grendel seem to take special pleasure in setting up residence in the Spice Gardens of Afarjasse, and stories are already circulating that the new Grendel governor - the grizzled old veteran Lord Rahab - takes pains to ensure every meal he eats is supplemented by spices from the famous Freeborn gardens. Needless to say, those spices are gathered now by slaves - orc slaves brought across from the Broken Shore for the moment but it seems unlikely that state of affairs will continue.
As the Winter Solstice approaches, the Salt Lords formally announce that Lord Rahab has been appointed to oversee the entire territory. Following quickly on the heels of that announcement come reassurances from the new governor that, as stipulated in the peace treaty, those Imperial citizens currently in Afarjasse and Morajasse have until the start of the Summer Solstice to relocate. After that time, any who remain will be subject to the rule of the orcs of Attar and further evacuation will not be permitted. In keeping with the agreement they have made with the Imperial Fleet Master, the orc armies make no effort to prevent Imperial citizens from leaving the newly conquered lands. This same largesse does not extend to Freeborn citizens in Oranseri, Fortargenta or the Cazar Straits; they remain slaves of the Grendel conquerors to all intents and purposes. Vigilant orc sentinels patrol the borders between the conquered regions and the newly ceded territory with harsh penalties applied to any who attempt to flee north or west.
Rahab offers unexpected assurances however; any Freeborn who are prepared to bow their heads to their new orc masters need not fear chains or whips. Those who accept their new status will be free to continue much as they have before - albeit with certain restrictions on their ability to move between Feroz and the rest of the Empire. Those who resist, or offer succour to rebels or insurrectionists, will be harshly punished however. For each Grendel so much as injured by a former Imperial, a dozen Freeborn will be selected at random and shipped back to Attar to live out their lives in the salt mines of Tathar and Ayereed. There are already rumours of Grendel offering significant rewards to any Freeborn prepared to inform on any of their countryfolk who are planning to flee, or to act against their Grendel overlords.
While the Freeborn of Feroz may be in bondage, the Grendel seem to be taking a much more friendly approach to other humans. Representatives of the Asavean Archipelago in particular have been reported meeting with Lord Rahab at Oran. The Grendel governor is apparently keen to re-open Oran as a trading port - one that will offer berths not only to Asavean and Sarcophan vessels, but also to Imperial merchants should they wish to trade with the orcs of the Broken Shore... and should their consciences support such behaviour.
Game Information : Segura and Feroz
The Lasambrian Jotun have been driven out of Anozserai, and the Empire is around halfway towards driving them out of Segura entirely. The civil service confirms the presence of a major conjunction in Segura during the Winter Solstice that will allow the heroes of the Empire to reach the Caida and the Lasambrian Jotun dig-site there.
The entire territory of Feroz is now in the hands of the Grendel. However, given Lord Rahab's interpretation of the peace treaty, the conquered territory penalty will not be applied until the start of the Summer Solstice. For the moment, it is still possible for Freeborn citizens to go about their business in these two regions with minimal interference from the occupation forces. This largess does not extend to the rest of the territory, needless to say, only to the two regions ceded by the peace treaty.
Any Freeborn character whose personal resource is in Feroz is free to take advantage of this situation to evacuate the territory and gain a new rank one personal resource in another territory without the usual 2 crowns payment for changing a personal resource.
The Empire no longer pays the upkeep for Mora's Rock, but at the same time they have lost control of the Spice Gardens of Feroz. While the title still exists, it provides no income or other benefits until such time as the sinecure is again in Imperial hands.
The forests of eastern Ossium are dark, and deep, and trackless. Haunted by centuries of cruel savagery, even with the grip of the dreadful Druj miasma largely broken they still lie under a shroud of melancholy and danger. Shortly after the Autumn Equinox, as the Freeborn Fire of the South lead a great train of Ossium orcs west toward Skarsind, four Imperial armies cross the far borders of the Echofell and pass into the Forest of Ulnak.
When the Empire first took the fight to the Druj, when the armies of Dawn crossed the Semmerlak on the Golden Causeway to meet their Varushkan and Thule allies, they strode forth with heads high and the Imperial Battle Anthem echoing across the waters. The invasion of Ulnak could not be more different. An attempt to get the soldiers to sing as the armies begin to mobilise falters almost immediately. Back when the Empire didn't even know the name of the territory it was invading it seemed paradoxically easier to imagine glory, and victory. Now the Empire has seen what the Druj do to their own lands... and what little the Great Forest Orcs have been able to tell them about the Forest of Ulnak suggests that the campaign to conquer it will be even more grim.
Again we fight alongside the armies of Dawn. We push on in our advance. We have rested, trained, onwards axes!Katia Strascovich, General of the Golden Axe
Like the woodlands of Ossium, the trees of Ulnak are old. Ancient, even. Five soldiers together can barely make a ring around the trunk of some of the largest. Hung with streamers of moss, wreathed in ivy, shrouded in brown and golden autumnal leaves, their branches weave together to create a canopy that blocks out the sun. A ghoulish twilight hangs over everything, adding to the oppressive atmosphere of menace pervading everything. It is clear that as with Ossium, and with Reikos before it, the Druj have blanketed the Forest of Ulnak with a miasma of fear. Even soldiers hardened by the invasion of Ossium find it difficult to resist the persistent disquietude that shrouds the woods. Happy memories seem distant, and it is all too easy to slip into a spiral of self-doubt and regret, or to allow uncertainty to overwhelm courage. The Dawnish keep each others spirits up with a veneer of bravado, with stories of glory, and with gifts of favours. The Varushkans trade black humour, and melancholy cautionary tales "We have iron hearts," they joke "as well as iron boots, and iron axes." The legacy of the Vard, indeed.
It is all to easy to be deceived by a trick of the light into thinking something horrible has just moved behind a tree, or that the natural sounds of the forest presage some surprise attack. Worse, sometimes it is too easy to dismiss a sound, or a furtive shadow as a trick of the light when it really is an enemy moving stealthily through the trees. There are Druj here - Druj warriors and scouts apparently keeping a close eye on the western borders of Ulnak.
Twenty thousand Imperial soldiers were never going to be stealthy, but the Druj seem to be aware of their presence almost as soon as they cross the border from Ossium. Almost immediately, the armies encounter trap and ambushes. Stragglers are waylaid without warning by fast-moving skirmishers breaking from the undergrowth, sowing as much confusion as possible, then fading back into the brush before anyone can react. Withering arrow fire shreds lightly armoured soldiers, seemingly timed to attack the weakest flanks almost as soon as a force leaves the crushing claustrophobia of the trees and tries to cross an open clearing. The traps are as deadly as they are inventive; pits whose walls are lined with envenomed barbs; poisoned spikes covered with loose leaves; tapering dead falls designed to collapse and smother those unfortunate to fall into them. In some cases, entire trees hung from ropes are placed along paths, designed to scythe through the ranks of whatever unit is unlucky enough to trigger them. Some of these waylays are new, but the majority seem to be old - remnants of some internecine conflict between Druj clans perhaps.
As with previous forays into the Mallum, it is not just the sapient creatures, or the supernatural dread, that test the mettle of the Imperial forces. The natural creatures of the Forest of Ulnak are just as vicious, and just as venomous, as the orcs. Woe betide the soldier who accidentally disturbs a deathstinger hive, or stumbles into a nest of thumb-sized, flesh hungry, ivory ants. The forests also seem to be home to a truly staggering number of different breeds of scorpion, of spider, and of snake. Perhaps it is some perverse side effect of the miasma, but none of these creatures seem to have any fear of humanity. What begins as a joke soon becomes a deadly reality - for the smaller creatures seem drawn to the warmth of human bodies, or the roomy confines of Imperial boots left empty for the night.
We are the people of the Sun, be you noble, errant or Yeofolk. Once more the Dawnish armies lead the charge into the unknown alongside our siblings in the Hounds of Glory and Gryphon's Pride. Our Varushkan cousins in the Golden Axe will be with us as we strike fear into the heart of the Druj. Death to the Druj!Zoran De Orzel, General of the Golden Sun
Despite all this opposition, both active and implicit, the armies make reasonable progress, with the massed ranks of the Golden Axe leading the way. Reinvigorated by the support of their people, the Varushkan soldiers have embraced the weapon - the tool - that adorns their standards. Many of them carry great logging axes, and though it slows them down they quickly demonstrate a proficiency for clearing areas of trees and using those trees to make compact, and defensible, camps for themselves and their Dawnish allies. Several of them joke that if the Druj have not bothered to build any roads through the heart of their forests, the Golden Axe are just the people to show them how it is done.
While the cynical northerners trample tree and orc alike beneath their iron boots, the Gryphon's Pride bring their own expertise to bear. They are here to conquer the Mallum, and they will allow neither haunted forest nor Druj butchers to gainsay them. As the 'Axe pushes eastward, the 'Pride sends contingents of heavily armoured soldiers north and south scouring the backwoods for opposition - and for signs of settlement.They do not find many; a few decrepit camps or collapsing villages seem to represent the entirety of the Druj habitation of this part of the Forest. Sometimes, they encounter ambushes in these villages but more often, they see signs of recent habitation abandoned days or hours before they arrived. The subjects of the Druj flee before the Dawnish - while the Imperial soldiers may have orders to make contact with the inhabitants, it seems none of the orcs are prepared to risk speaking to the invaders.
For their part, the Hounds of Glory and the Golden Sun alternate between pressing forward and consolidating the gains the Empire has made. Their main focus is on reducing losses to the barbarian Druj defenders, and their traps, and the trackless wilderness. Heavily armoured knights stand guard at night, while more lightly armoured yeofolk scout ahead of the main forces, engaging the Druj skirmishers on their own terms and retreating as soon as they encounter opposition to provide invaluable warnings to the main body of the Imperial force.
Soldiers of the Pride! The time to conquer is upon us once again. We march to the forest of Ulnak to take land from the Druj once more. We will show their slaves that there is a place in the Empire for them where they can be brought virtue. Stir your courage as we advance once more into the unknown. Remain Vigilant against Druj ambushes and villainy. Death to the Druj!Garravaine De Rondell, General of the Gryphon's Pride
In a way, the land itself resists the Empire. There are no roads, and few tracks. What thoroughfares there are are often trapped. Yet it would be wrong to call this part of the Forest of Ulnak featureless. From time to time the Empire encounters overgrown clearings, some of them large enough to contain an entire Dawnish or Varushkan village. Indeed, there are often signs that these places might once have been the site of actual Druj settlements - collapsed frames, discarded pieces of rusted metal, and bones. So many bones. It becomes a common occurrence for a group of soldiers pitching tents for the night or digging latrines to come across the bleached and weathered bones of orcs below the layers of leaf mould, or tangled among the roots of the trees. Some of the remains seem to date back centuries.
These skeletons might go some way toward explaining another unsettling phenomenon that comes as the sun sets and true darkness falls. Especially in the clearings where villages once stood, there are signs that this part of the Forest is home to a great many ghosts, spectres, wraiths, and phantoms. At first the reports are discarded as yet another result of the Druj miasma, but in time the body of evidence becomes overwhelming: these woods are haunted. One band of Varushkan scouts speaks of discovering an entire village of pale-faced, uncommunicative orcs as evening was falling. The inhabitants refused to speak to the soldiers, staring at them with mournful faces, silently huddling together. An hour after sunset, every single one of them vanished, taking their ramshackle cottages with them, leaving the terrified scouts in a ruin-haunted overgrown dell. Several of those scouts have since disappeared themselves, perhaps prey to some unwholesome curse.
While the destroyed villages are bad enough, not all the remains represent orc subjects. Three weeks into the campaign, while setting up camp, an advance force of Hounds of Glory find dozens of orc remains under a layer of topsoil. When the moon rises, and moonlight touches the earth, spectral orc warriors rise out of the ground itself and fall upon each other - fighting in complete silence. When one of the knights attempts to intercede, the orcs turn as one upon the Dawnish invaders. While the phantoms seem at first to be unable to directly harm the living, their weapons leave freezing scars on the skin where they strike and all those injured by the ghostly warriors quickly fall into a terrible despondence from which only the direct aid of a troubadour is able to rouse them.
Despite this the Empire's invasion has not been repulsed - far from it. After six weeks, the armies have managed to claim a little over half of the great spreading forest region and sent a few scouts to explore neighbouring areas. At this point, however, the Imperial forces begin to encounter serious resistance. A major force of orcs arrives, accompanied by several warbands of Pakkad in chitinous black armour. Under banners of rearing emerald scorpion and savage-clawed ebony beetle these orcs put up a spirited defence, slowing the advance to a crawl. From thorough interrogation of captured prisoners, the Golden Axe are able to ascertain that these troops are a part of the garrison of the grand fortress mentioned by the Great Forest Orcs - the citadel of Cassad Ûln built in the foothills to the north. Their orders are apparently to slow the invaders by whatever means necessary, rather than to drive them out - to keep them in the western Forest until the Winter - the implication being that the Druj have prepared a strategy for dealing with the Dawnish and Varushkan forces.
Let us spread the example of the Sand Fishers to the subject tribes of Ulnak. A Steady Conquest with troubadours spreading the message to any that will listen. Bring colours and faith to those who were once miserable to turn on their Druj tormentors.Tancred, General of the Hounds of Glory
While the Golden Axe question defeated soldiers, the Golden Sun are finally able to make some belated contact with those few orcs living in the forest. For the most part, the orcs are terrified of the humans, but an audacious troubadour travelling with the Hounds of Glory manages to make peaceful contact with two of them. At last, the Empire is able to learn the name of the haunted wilderness they are attempting to conquer - Oerwealt, the Trackless Forest.
Stumbling over their words, these frightened orcs are able to provide at least a partial explanation as to why the forest is so empty of life. According to their information, the Druj have spent the last year raising a new army in the Forest of Ulnak, in the eastern farmlands. An army made terrible by the blessings of the Scorpion Queen and empowered with potent elixirs and potions brewed with an indescribable quantity of herbs, and the arts of the Buruk Tepel of the clan of the Ebon Beetle. The orcs were not prepared to say much more - more afraid of their Druj masters and the vengeful Spider Queen than they were eager for the food and drink the troubadour offered - but they did share several heartbreaking tales about how Oerwealt came to be haunted. After generations of fighting between the clans, a terrible curse was laid on the place long ago by the defeated Buruk Tepel of the extinguished Woodcreeper clan. Those few villages left in the Trackless Forest belong to the last remnants of the Woodcreeper, condemned by the rest of the Druj to live among the ruins of their former glory.
Stories of ghosts and curses are all very well, but there are Druj to be fought. As the Winter solstice draws near, the Imperial forces are halfway toward claiming Oerwealt, perhaps as much as three-fifths. The audacious strategies of the Golden Sun and the Golden Axe have allowed the invasion to make more progress than they might have in the face of the miasma, and the opposition from the soldiers of the citadel of Cassad Ûln. Of particular note is that there is no magic at work in the Forest of Ulnak - at least none that the Empire is familiar with. It seems that for all their preparations, the Druj have not turned the full might of their baleful power to the task of protecting the great woodland - an oversight that no doubt they will rectify in the coming weeks.
Game Information : Forest of Ulnak
The Empire has no map of the Forest Ulnak - as with the earlier invasion of Ossium it is thus difficult to know for sure what is going on in the territory. There is certainly a very large fortification somewhere in the territory - in the mountainous north if the Great Forest Orcs information is to be believed. The region the Empire is currently engaged in conquering has the forested and haunted qualities, and is cloaked in the Druj miasma (which means that there is at least one miasma pillar somewhere in its depth).
Oerwalt appears to be bounded by additional forested regions to the north, east, and south. It is possible that the scouts dispatched to perform long-distance reconnaissance may be able to provide more information about the neighbouring regions - assuming they are able to avoid the attentions of the Druj, the verminous wildlife, and the confusing shadows that pool beneath the ancient trees.
Despite the presence of the Druj garrison, the armies have not suffered any significant casualties. While there are rumours of a new army being mustered in the territory, it has not been encountered at this time.
At the height of Summer, the Jotun poured into western Bregasland. Under the banner of the Bear-Who-Swims, the army of the Jotun hero Vrangar Ustison, they marauded through North Fens and down into Grey Fens. Little stood between their conquest of Bregasland save the magic of the Sussivari Frost Coven, the stubbornness of the people of the marshes, and the courage of the heroes of the Empire.
During the Autumn Equinox, Imperial forces used a conjunction of the Sentinel Gate to reach the vicinity of Bill Sabbey, a monastery right in the path of the orc assault. Unfortunately, while they were able to counter some of the Jotun forces arrayed against them, the expeditionary force was unable to turn the orcs aside. The abbot and many of his monks fell to the Jotun, and Bill Sabbey itself followed swiftly after. Despite the outcome, the Jotun forces at Bill Sabbey held their ground and did not try to push forward into Ottermire and The Rushes. Rather, they set about raising a burial mound over the ruins of the dilapidated fort where the abbot and the Imperial heroes made their stand - interring all the fallen Imperials and Jotun alongside the body of the defeated Ice giant of Cathan Canae. The work took the better part of a week - the fort represented the only solid ground in the vicinity - and part of the monastery was dismantled to provide stone for the crypt. Scouts from Ottery say that the mound is now crowned by a single standing stone - a peculiarly Marcher touch to a Jotun monument.
Drakes, break camp and move with all haste to Bregasland. The Jotun have invaded, leave the baggage, we must move quickly. This will not be a defeat of the mourn a generation ago. We will be the first to battle we must enact a solid defence and buy time for the other armies. Through blood and mach to the green field beyond.Hal Talbot, General of the Drakes
The delay near Bill Sabbey does not stop the rest of the barbarians however. Nearly forty thousand Jotun consolidate their hold over the western fenland and push east, seeking to claim as much of the Bregasland marsh as they can before the Empire can respond. At first it looks as if they might continue to be unopposed - while conjured fortresses may slow the orc conquest there is no way that magic alone can prevent the orc assault.
We fight in Bregasland. We fight the Jotun. We fight with Honour. We are bound by common cause. We are going to hit them so hard their ancestors feel it. Three people, one nation. Ten Nations, one Empire.Kindra Edasdottir, General of the Fist of the Mountains
The Imperial armies are on the move, however. A fortnight after the Autumn Equinox, the Drakes cross the eastern borders out of Oddmire, with the Fist of the Mountains, the Bloodcloaks, and the Summer Storm following close behind. The presence of the first Marcher army helps rally the defenders. The Drakes and the Blood Cloaks set up a defensive line, while the Fist of the Mountains and the Summer Storm range across the Eastern marshes to test the strength of the orc warriors. The soldiers of the first Wintermark army are particularly vociferous about the need to fight heroically, to eschew wholesale slaughter and underhand tactics, and are prepared to fight even their own allies to ensure that such tactics are not employed in Bregasland. While the orcs do not give the warriors of Wintermark any quarter they cannot fail to recognise that they are striving to match Jotun honour with heroism.
Soldiers of the Blood Cloaks. Time and time again I have asked you to bleed for the Empire. Time and time again I have promised you a return to our ice. This should have been our season, but the fist of the mountain march south and by virtue I will not be the general to break faith with our brothers and sisters. We march to Bregasland. We tend the fallen Imperials and hold their land. Next season, we go north with our Imperial Allies or we go alone.Lofyn Blood-cloak, General of the Blood Cloaks
Even with some eight thousand additional troops belonging to Imperial captains - the majority from Wintermark supporting the Fist - the Imperial forces are seriously outnumbered. It is fortunate then that the armies from Kallavesa are only one part of the Empire's response. The Green Shields soon arrive from Kahraman, and take up defensive positions at Graven Rock. A week after that, the rest of the Marcher armies arrive following a punishing forced march north from Segura, accompanied by some six thousand additional troops lead by Imperial captains. The Tusks join the Green Shield on the defensive, while the Strong Reeds and the Bounders move quickly into the Rushes to intercept the Jotun incursions there.
Legionnaires! We are off to war, we will show our loyalty to our Empire by standing shoulder to shoulder with the marches, Jotun are invading, I want fucking rid of them. We will have to fight on their terms, no butchery, no executions, remember legionaries, we are here to fight with virtue, if I hear the word honour drop out of any of your mouths you will report to a preacher. Fight well, I have pride in you.Irontide Jarn, General of the Summer Storm
As has been customary for several years now, powerful Night magic is brought to bear in Bregasland, weaving defensive glamours and infusing the marsh itself with a hatred for the invaders and an urge to protect the defenders. In the eastern marshes - in Ottermire and the Rushes - the Sussivari have raised intangible fortifications of mist and twisted reeds that provide succour to both Imperial soldiers and the insular people of the fens. These enchantments are not the only magics brought to bear in Bregasland. The enchantments woven by the magicians of the Empire in support of the defenders of Bregasland are less flashy than those laid on the marshes themselves, but no less potent in their effects. Each of the Summer Storm, the Drakes, and the Tusks are supported by Day magic that helps them at both the strategic and tactical levels, letting them coordinate their movement, quickly recognise opportunities, and find creative ways around some of the difficulties presented by the marshy terrain. At the same time, a working of Autumn magic suffuses the Fist of the Mountain, binding together the heroic captains fighting alongside them and greatly enhancing their ability to work together towards a common goal.
Last season they ran from us, this season we will catch them, face them and best them. We go to slay Jotun warriors, and defend Imperial lives. Fight with courage, pride and loyalty and you will triumph.Osric, General of the Green Shields
Much of the fighting takes place on the rare pieces of dry ground scattered across Bregasland - especially the raised dikes of packed earth that support the narrow roads connecting the scattered Bregas villages. The confined spaces makes it difficult for the Jotun to bring their superior numbers to bear and their reluctance to press too far into the shifting fens makes it easier for the Imperial forces to block their advance, or to harry their flanks. That said, it is clear that the western orcs are entirely committed to the conquest of Bregasland. The Bear Who Swims seem to have fallen back, and now the Fist of Ulven, beneath the personal banners of the southern king, Gudmundur Arason, lead the way with the Mandowla's Roar and the Roaring Thunder throwing all caution to the wind and seeking every opportunity to clash in heroic battle with the Imperial forces. Furthermore, while the Night magic conjured across the eastern marshes provide some protection to Imperial forces, the Jotun are prepared for it. Warbands lead by the Lion of the North quickly probe the extent of the enchanted fortresses, and use all their cunning as well as not a little brute force to push through them, in some cases taking unawares Imperial soldiers who thought they were safe within the mist-shrouded glades. The Howling Night seem to be everywhere - the eerie shaman-warriors who fight under the banner of the so-called Dire Prince seem particularly keen to engage the Summer Storm, but also lose no opportunity to clash with the Strong Reeds and the Bounders. Swelled by many warriors fighting at the behest of the great champions of the Jotun, there seems to be an illimitable tide of orcs ready to hurl themselves into the fray against the Empire's forces.
My Friends, the Jotun Invaders think to drive us from hearth and home. They seek to turn Bregasland into another Mournwold. We will not allow this. Be thou strong of heart and aim. Defend our fellow marchers and land as the strength of the Empire throws the bastards out!Tomothy Crowle, General of the Tusks
In the end, the dual-faceted Imperial strategy pays off. The defensive forces prevent the Jotun moving further eastward, while those soldiers with more aggressive orders are able to push westward and recover some of the land they have already taken. The trespass of the orcs is slowed and turned back. One by one they are forced to relinquish their positions in the Rushes and Ottermire, and retreat to their positions in the west.
Soldiers of the Strong Reeds, as you may know since the last summit Marcher land has been taken. We are going to strike back! As your acting general, I order you to steady advance into north fens, and then into the Grey fens. Find your pride of the land and show these invaders what happens when marcher land is taken!Jack Flint, General of the Strong Reeds
The Strong Reeds were mostly levied from the people of Bregasland, and as with all the Marcher armies it retains deep territorial ties. Here the strong-headed Marcher yeomen are fighting on their home ground, and they exploit every opportunity that provides. With the help of the people of Ottermire, they open the sluice gates on their dikes, flooding out several of the Jotun encampments in the process and bogging them down in a sucking quagmire that makes them easy prey for the Fist of the Mountains and the Summer Storm. The western army also proves particularly skilled at outpacing their orc enemies, vaulting flooded ditches and narrow waterways with the aid of their pikes and halberds, or gathering information about enemy movements with the aid of stealthy Bregas who skulk amidst the rushes and willows of the southern marshes.
For everyone else, the wet terrain is a constant problem. There are warriors among the Winterfolk, and soldiers in the other Marcher armies, with some experience of the mossy waters and shifting islands, but the Summer Storm has scant experience fighting over the shifting flood-lands. Bregas natives, and northern hunters familiar with the Kallavesa, are much in demand by the Imperial orcs - as well as by those human companies more practised at facing their foe on solid, trustworthy ground.
Marcher folk, the time has come to take back our homes. We march with our kith and kin, within our nation and without. We fight for our homes, land, and very souls. My brave bounders, we will play to our strengths and keep the hated Jotun on the hop. Let the scum sleep with one eye open. WE MARCH TO WAR.Ciaphas Dekar, General of the Bounders
Fortunately, it seems that the Jotun are having similar problems; it is a commonly known fact that the Jotun hate fighting in marshes. Their last expedition into the Imperial fens - when they attempted to invade the sacred swamps of Wintermark - met with complete defeat and they retreated back across the border with their tails between their legs. This time, however, it seems that they have brought scouts and guides of their own - and that those ancillary troops come from an unexpected source.
The Jotun have been at war with the Empire for centuries, and before that their armies regularly threatened the nations that now form its western borders. In all that time, though, the Empire has never encountered a force like that they encounter as they push into Grey Fens. More and more, soldiers begin to report encountering disciplined bands of human warriors fighting alongside the orcs, many of them with pole arms and pikes There are some familiar faces - it seems that those children of the Mourn who chose to become Yegarra have come to Bregasland. But they cannot account for the sheer numbers involved, nor for the demonstrable marsh-craft that these some of these soldiers frequently demonstrate.
A fortnight before the Winter Solstice, a partial explanation emerges for the presence of so many humans fighting with the orcs. A call goes out from Fisher's Rock in the north fens near the village of Greywater. It comes from a woman calling herself Mathilda Fisher, who claims to be the direct descendant of the Fishers of Greywater, a Marcher household who once laid claim to much of western Bregasland. Mathilda says she has returned to liberate Bregasland from the Imperial occupation and claim it as its steward. She claims that the orcs of Narkyst are here fighting in support of her, rather than the other way round.
The claims are initially scoffed at, but if it is a lie then it is clearly a cleverly constructed one. The Fishers were once a powerful household who opposed Marcher involvement in the Empire, and fought against the pro-Imperial houses during the brief civil war that tore apart the Marches at the dawn of the Empire. They were defeated, but never surrendered; some stories among the Bregas claim that they fled westward with their soldiers rather than submit to the Empire or "went north" - whatever that means. Now, after four centuries of living in the marshes of Hordalant, it seems they may have returned to lay claim to their ancestral holdings - apparently with the full support of the Jotun orcs as well as large numbers of human Jotun - of Yegarra. While some claim that this is a trick, even the most suspicious Bregas is forced to admit that the Jotun are not particularly given to this kind of deception or dishonesty. At the very least It seems likely that the Jotun at least believe that this Mathilda Fisher is who she claims to be.
...A dike's only as good as the water it keeps out. The Empire has ruled the Marches for nearly 400 years, but having a beard doesn't make you wise. Time has come for Marchers to pick their own rulers again...Mathilda Fisher
Despite the best efforts to prevent it, word spreads that Mathilda is calling for all Marcher folk who have had enough of the Empire's lies to join her and her Jotun allies. She offers guarantees that they will keep their land if they are prepared to fight for it. She is supported by one of the leaders of the former Mournwold Yegarra, Steven of Sarcombe. This deadly master of the partizan and the pike has thrown in his lot with Mathilda. His supporters recount vivid stories of the evil curses inflicted on the Mourn by the Empire, describing the misery and death inflicted on all sides. The Jotun, they say, do not curse their own people. Far from it - protecting those who work the land is the highest calling for the western orcs. An invitation is extended to those open to hearing what Mathilda Fisher and Steven Sarcombe have got to say. Come to Fisher's Rock in the North Fens to find out more. Those who do so will be rewarded and given what they need to rise up and overthrow the Empire.
...Sure we're fighting with the Jotun. Just like you're fighting for the Empire. Difference is, you're fighting for the murderers who cursed the Mourn just so they could pile up the bodies quicker and get it over with. So don't piss on my back and tell me it's raining. At least my allies have got enough honour not to poison children in their cots...Steven of Sarcombe
After much frantic work, civil service prognosticators have identified a major conjunction of the Sentinel Gate that gives an opportunity for Imperial heroes to reach Miresend in the North Fens, a stone's throw from Fisher's Rock. Having investigated the area, Imperial scouts have reported the presence of a significant force of human Yegarra - a mix of hard-bitten Hordalanters fishermen and more youthful Mournwold miners and farmers - assembled there. If the Empire can engage them, and disrupt their position, it could forestall a possible encounter between them and any locals foolish or curious enough to consider going to the meeting. A successful assault will significantly damage the credibility of these Yegarra and while neither Steven or Mathilda are believed to be present, an Imperial victory will prove a major setback to their plans.
In the meantime, the Jotun invasion has been slowed and turned back, but they are still very much in control of the western marshes, and the butcher's bill has not been cheap. Even without the presence of curses such as Rivers Run Red, it is all too easy for a wound to become infected or for those unfamiliar with the marshes to drink tainted water - the Bloodcloaks and their opposite numbers among the Jotun forces have their work cut out for them in ensuring that those who survive the battle do not fall before the cruel scythe of pestilence and disease, however. When losses are tallied it seems that nearly four thousand Imperial troops have been lost in the marshes, and cautious estimates suggest that maybe as many as twice that number of Jotun have been claimed by the muck. Many of the bodies will never be recovered. Even in times of peace the Dour Fens have a reputation for being haunted, and with so many warriors lost to dank bogs and hungry quagmires, the number of unquiet spirits can surely only increase.
Game Information : Bregasland
The armies on defensive orders contributed to reducing casualties taken by the defensive armies, while the armies on attacking orders contributed their victory points toward driving the Jotun out. The end result is that the Empire has prevented the Jotun invading the eastern Bregas marshes, and has struck deep into Grey Marshes. Imperial forces are just short of halfway toward pushing the Jotun out of that region.
The Wintermark armies in Bregasland have continued to fight heroically rather than seeking to slaughter their foes. Indeed, the Fist of the Mountains have made a special effort to Fight with Honour. This strategy is obvious to everyone in the territory, including the Jotun.
Finally, messengers from Mathilda Fisher have been dispatched to villages across Bregasland, both the regions dominated by the Jotun and those currently held by the Empire. Every character from Bregasland will receive an update in their pack giving additional details about their message. Individual players may roleplay their reaction to these messengers as they see fit - it is perfectly acceptable to decide your character has turned them away and ignore their message for example.
Participation : Bregasland
If the military council chooses to take advantage of the major conjunction mentioned, we will ask the majority of player volunteers to take on the roles of Yegarra, the human warriors from Mournwold and Hordalant. You can help us make this battle even better by bringing along any Marcher or Wintermark-style kit or armour you have, as well as any iconic Marcher weaponry particularly a bill, spear or other pole-arm; along with any appropriate shield or buckler. This will help us create a dramatic battle opportunity where the Empire must face down a predominantly human opponent. You can find out more about iconic Marcher look here. We understand the difficulty of getting to an event with additional kit at the best of times, especially as it will not be possible to tell before Friday night whether the military council will elect to take this battle, but if you are able to bring such kit along it will improve the experience as well as that of the players you are fighting against,
If you are already part of an elite monster unit that can outfit for a Jotun warband, and have your own personal orc mask, then please come to battle prep as you normally would. If you are part of such a unit but do not have your own orc mask then you can either monster as a non-fighting thrall alongside your orc friends or join one of the other Yegarra units. We will not be running mixed units of human and orc warriors for this battle.
IMPORTANT - we will NOT be issuing any orc masks to players for this battle opportunity should it be taken. Our masks are dried and spritzed with disinfectant after every battle, but we are including a set of battle opportunities that do not include shared masks at the next event to further reduce coronavirus risks while the current situation is still evolving.
Power of Three
Beneath Watchful Eyes
It has been nearly two years since the Highborn armies retreated from Zenith, since the Druj claimed dominion over the entire territory. Shortly after the Autumn equinox, the Empire returns. It's been a while coming, perhaps.
Five armies come down from the passes of Caeli. Twenty-two thousand Imperial soldiers, give or take, supported by more than eleven thousand warriors loyal to independent warbands. They are strengthened by the clear vision granted by Day magic, by the bonds of Autumn magic and by the hosts of Winter - two thousand husks shamble beneath the banners of the Citadel Guard and the Iron Helms as they cross the border into Zenith. Perhaps it will be enough.
The Imperial forces pass beneath the watchful gaze of the Three Watchers; those immense statues of Highborn soldiers only recently carved into the mountainside. Their stone eyes counts the soldiers as they march out to face the armies of the Druj. Few fail to look up, to mark the faces of those immense figures, to think about what they represent. They kindle something in the hearts of those who pass beneath their shadow, and it is difficult not to be moved. Inspired, even. Only the dead are unaffected, disinterested, their empty eyes focused on the lowlands and the feast of orc flesh that awaits them.
The Urizen are in the vanguard. The Citadel Guard are focused and empowered with the mantle of Summer. The Technique of the Mountainous Ascent helps them to seek out and secure key strategic objectives, allowing the army to quickly establish safe camps. Their magic infuses temporary fortifications to grant them extra strength, providing the Imperial forces with well-defended camps from which they can expand outwards. They know the terrain as well, even if it has changed a little since they were last here. They also know the lesson that the Mountain teaches; it cannot be far from their minds.
Feel the night magics of Urizen flow through you. We are masters of magic. We are experts in the martial arts. We are Wise, Courageous, Ambitious. We are the Spear that's brought to strike in anger, and we will strike deep into Zenith to begin the liberation. Sentinels, make me Proud.Nicassia Avicia of Phoenix Reach, General of the Citadel Guard
Alongside the Urizen march both League armies, and two armies of Varushkans. The Towerjacks travelled with the Citadel Guard from Casinea, their numbers supplemented by a number of magician-healers - battlemages and troupes versed in Spring magic alike - many from Holberg eager to protect their fellow citizens from the poison of the Druj. They are welcomed, but the reception is a little guarded. The treachery of the Heirs of Terunael and their allies have given the people of the Empire cause to be suspicious of those who embrace the power of Spring, however pure their motives. The Northern Eagle have come south from distant Brocéliande, where they helped hold back the green tide of the vallorn. They arrive energised and ready to fight, having broken their journey briefly in Therunin alongside the Valiant Pegasus. They bring with them a number of Highborn and Navarr physicks and apothecaries, eager to help stem the tide of Imperial dead in the face of Druj cruelty. The strategies of the Eagle and the 'Jacks are conservative; both armies are committed to capturing land, to liberating what few spires still have human inhabitants, rather than to slaughtering the orcs. They work alongside the Citadel Guard to try and secure Clypion as a base from which to strike deeper into Zenith.
Towerjacks, we shall advance steadily into the mountains of Clypion. Kill the Druj, reclaim the territory, free the slaves.Natalia “The Falcon” Barossa, General of the Towerjacks
The Wolves of War have come east from Sarvos, pausing briefly in Morrow to supplement their numbers with well-paid Urizeni scouts and spies. Many of those sentinels who lead the liberation of the people of Zenith have signed on to guide the Wolves through the foothills of Zenith in their pursuit of the Druj. Precious spyglasses, doughty pack llama, and polished bronze mirrors for relaying messages, all work to help the League soldiers find new ways to approach the defensive positions the Druj have established throughout Zenith. Coupled with the enduring enchantment that binds the soldiers, their mercenary allies, and the warbands of independent captains together, the Wolves seem to be everywhere at once, pressing the Druj on every front, tireless and irresistible.
The road from Sarvos is long, but the Wolves do not walk it alone. The last army into Zenith is the Iron Helms, fighting in Urizen again. While their allies are focused on taking Clypion, the Iron Helms have a different priority; striking fear into the hearts of the Druj. They take no prisoners, neither offering nor asking any quarter. Where the other armies avoid risky engagements, the Iron Helms seem to intentionally seek them out missing no opportunity to demoralise the forces arrayed against them. Wherever they fight, they unleash the shambling horrors that fight beside them to devour the fallen, and the Winter spirits that ride within the rotten cadavers rarely bother to wait for their prey to be dead before they begin to feast. Fat carrion crows drift over the foothills of Clypion, and the triumphant howls of the war dogs echo through the valleys.
Soldiers of the Northern Eagle! We are bruised, we are bloody, but we are Varushkan! We do not shirk, we do not run, we stand and face the foe. I have unfinished business in Zenith, promises to keep, and Druj heads to take. Sharpen your axes and raise your standards, we're going hunting!Pavel Denisovich Patriciu, General of the Northern Eagle
Of course, the Druj are fearsome in their own right. As those who have risked the journey to Zenith have already recounted, the orcs have raised their foul miasma of dread over eastern Urizen. It hangs in the air like invisible smoke, choking and strangling every hopeful thought, every bright memory, in coils of despair. It is all too easy to give in to tiredness or exhaustion beneath the remorseless attack of this oppression, but the armies of the Empire are no strangers to this cloying atmosphere. Mitigating it stretches the resources of the priests who march with the armies beyond breaking point - there is little chance of providing more than thirty thousand warriors with a personal shield of protection. The challenge of confronting the effects of the miasma inevitably falls to the common soldiers who do their best to keep the spirit of victory alive.
It should come as no surprise that there is a great deal of magic at work during the liberation of Zenith, and not all of it comes from Imperial magicians. The orcs of the Mallum have quickened the sodden, ruined marshes of Proceris and roused the dark, twisted forests of Lustri to protect the land they have stolen. Their wicked magicians have poured out their power across the whole of Zenith, infusing every drop of water with the vital power of Spring. To some captains, this healing magic comes as a blessed relief, but it is tainted as all things the Druj do are tainted. While it saves the lives of countless Imperial soldiers, it saves just as many orcs.
The Jaws of the Trap
The Imperial Senate spends hundreds of Thrones each year scrying the enemies of the Empire, and of all of them the Druj are the hardest to pin down. Their motives are often obscured and their movements impossible to predict. They wrap stealth and deception around them like a cloak and their forces in Zenith are no different. There are no stars in the night skies; a powerful shroud swallows all save the strongest divinations. Where magic fails, mortal eyes are barely better. Even the best scouts of Urizen and the League cannot say with any certainty exactly how many armies are present, let alone how many orcs.
Despite this lack of information, the Imperial armies make good progress. In the first week of the campaign they push forward into Clypion and while they encounter the enemy, the Druj are forced to fall back. The orcs appear to be unprepared for the Imperial attack. Taken by surprise, they seem confused and struggle to coordinate their defences. In spite of the omnipresent miasma, morale begins to rise. The area around the pass of the Three Watchers is quickly secured, and those with bitter scores to settle against the Mallum orcs seize every opportunity to engage their hated enemy. There are some heated arguments as certain captains argue for a more bold approach that that ordered by the Imperial generals. The Druj appear to be on the back foot - perhaps it is time to throw caution to the wind, to seize the opportunity to make the orcs pay for what they have done in Urizen.
Wolves, are you content to see the foul Druj squatting in the spires and citadels of our friends? That insult will not stand. Hire the finest Urizeni guides and pack Ilamas to allow us to manoeuvre past the enemy defenders, and through difficult terrain. We will hit them wherever they do not expect it, beginning with ClypionGabriel Barossa, General of the Wolves of War
The soldiers have their orders, but it is difficult not to be drawn into pursuit. The Druj are scattered and weak, barely able to put up any resistance. For the first few weeks, the only problem the Empire face is keeping up with the Druj as their enemy retreats, desperate to avoid the fight. Progress is surprisingly rapid, even with the steady pace set by the Towerjacks and the Northern Eagle. By the end of the first month, the Imperial armies are comfortably camped in the northern foothills of Clypion. Half a dozen spires have been reclaimed and fortified, and strong supply lines laid down.
With the Druj though, things are never quite what they seem. The first sign that something is amiss comes with the report of a team of long-range scouts supporting the Wolves of War, charged with locating exploitable weaknesses in the orcs' defences. Out of fourteen soldiers in the wide patrol. only eight make it back to Imperial lines. The news they bring is chilling. A huge Druj army lies hidden in a deep vale in western Proceris. Thousands of fresh Druj troops holding off, clearly waiting for the signal to attack, positioned to crash into the rear of the Imperial advance, potentially cutting them off from the passes back into southern Morrow. In the wake of this intelligence, a keen-eyed captain in the Towerjacks notes that none of the far-patrols sent east have returned at all; as if something in Iteri is simply swallowing them up. Combined with the news from Proceris...
Within days of the scout's return, perhaps realising that their ambush has failed, the Druj tactics suddenly and dramatically change. Their retreat slows, their strung-out lines quickly and efficiently reform, and they begin to fight in earnest. Where previously they had fallen back, now they stand firm, making the Empire pay for every inch of ground. A great wave of orc warriors surges up out of the marshes of Proceris and smashes against the eastern flank of the Imperial force. For well over a week the Empire are forced to fight tooth and nail just to hold their new position and prevent the Druj from forcing them to retreat.
Iron Helms, we are at full strength and champing at the bit. It is time to march forth and make the Druj remember why they fear us. We will carry out a Merciless onslaught into Zenith. Take no prisoners, let no Druj sleep without the nightmares of our actions make them fear us, make them run. Let the husks feastMagnus Anatolyvich Prochnost, General of the Iron Helms
At the end of that week, a second massive Druj force emerges from Iteri to attack the Empire on their right flank. Now the full scale of the Druj treachery is revealed. Their plan was clearly to lure the Empire deep into Clypion, while the forces in Proceris and Iteri manoeuvred into position. With their weight of numbers they could have encircled the Imperial armies, cut their supply lines and then butchered them at their leisure. A simple but effective strategy that might have cost the Empire dearly had they been more hasty with their assault. Were it not for those orders to avoid risk and preserve Imperial lives, it might well have worked. More aggressive orders could easily have seen the Imperial forces pushing too far forward too quickly, allowing the jaws of the Druj trap to close around them with disastrous consequences.
There are obviously tens of thousands of Druj in Zenith, and it is almost impossible to identify them all but it seems that three specific forces are spearheading the orc defence of Zenith. The most prominent are those orcs of the the so-called White Lion who present an implacable front against the Imperials. They seem adept at countering the probing attacks of the Wolves of War, and what they lack in mobility compared to the forces fighting under the standard of the Wolf, they more than make up for in disciplined viciousness. While the Wolves win several early victories, as the days draw on and the Druj numbers grow, the orcs under the standards of the Ivory Ant blunt and then ultimately counter the best efforts of the League soldiers.
Wherever the Druj are engaged, they are supported by cunning bands of herbalists and healers who bear the banners of the Red Lizard. Their tepel apothecaries do not face the Empire directly, but it seems they are always there rousing injured orc soldiers and taking perverse enjoyment in tormenting any Imperial troops - especially Imperial Orcs - who fall into their clutches.
Finally, there comes report after report of roving warbands under coiling serpent banners fighting a guerilla war in the foothills of Clypion. They are adept at hunting scouts and skirmishers alike, launching stinging raids against Imperial baggage trains and supply columns, then melting back into the wilderness whenever the Empire tries to respond. More than once they manage to lure soldiers from the Iron Helms and the Wolves of War into traps, pulling them out of position down towards the stinking mire of Proceris, then launching overwhelming counterattacks against the vulnerable Imperials.
Lights in the Darkness
Even with the trap sprung, the situation is dire. A hurried conclave of captains is called by the far sighted strategists of the Guard and the enlightened Towerjacks using information gathered by the Wolves and the Eagles. Two nights of tense discussion, and more heated arguments follow as they devise a new strategy. The blunt truth is that the Empire are outnumbered and it is clear to everyone that their enemy has spent months preparing the ground for this assault. The question is how to respond?
The Druj offer one answer. An Imperial retreat is inevitable against these numbers, but the Druj attack ferociously, desperate to turn this into a full scale rout. Taking advantage of the way their poisonous miasma seeps into the hearts of everyone present, they hope to break the Empire's spirits and shatter their armies. This time it is their turn to be disappointed. The iron discipline of the Varushkans never wavers for a second - and every terror that the Druj mete out is returned in kind by the Iron Helms. The Towerjacks and the Wolves are similarly unmoved - years of fighting the Druj in Holberg have left both well prepared for this war. Together the four armies form a wall of steel that no Druj is permitted to cross.
This unmoving fortitude in the face of overwhelming numbers gives the sentinels and magicians of the Citadel Guard time to enact a plan of their own. Many of the spires of Clypion have already been freed - their populace rescued by the brave actions of Imperial champions earlier in the year, but there are still scores of opportunities to beard the Druj in their den. A tempest jade mine liberated here, a slaving caravan destroyed and its human cargo freed there. Against impossible odds, the Guard attack far and wide. Some bands of soldiers even seek out targets in Iteri and Proceris, striking against more dangerous locations that the initial bands of liberators couldn't risk. All to get more people to safety. People and the occasional treasure of the Urizen people. A book here, a relic of the past untainted by the Druj there.
One grim sergeant of the Iron Helms comments that between the heroes of the Empire and the grace of Kaela, the Druj don't seem to have as many Urizen to stick on spikes as they used to.
All the while the four Imperial armies close the ranks against the Druj assault, fighting to keep them at bay. Every hour claimed is another Urizeni (or Highborn, or former League citizen) freed from the clutches of the Druj - but every hour the risk grows greater that the lines will break and the Empire's position be overrun. The Empire cannot hold the ground it has claimed - it must retreat. But retreating can be more deadly than advancing as any experienced soldier knows. The last troops to pull back through the pass will simply be slaughtered. At the moment where the Druj sense that they have the upper hand against the Empire they will sweep down and butcher those who remain behind to cover the retreat.
But the rout never comes. With measured steps, the Imperial armies manoeuvre back up the passes into Morrow. This is the most dangerous hour, the obvious moment to press the advantage, but at the very last the Druj ferocity seems to falter. It is almost eerie, in the end. Several Imperial forces are cut off from the armies, in danger of being surrounded or picked off as they withdraw northwards. It looks bad... but at the last moment the Druj simply stop attacking. Scouts report desperate messengers running hither-and-yon among the main forces of orc troops. Attempts are made to intercept those messages but they come to naught but it is clear something is going on.
It is as if everything is holding its breath - the Empire, the Druj, the mountains themselves.
After four days of uncertainty the Druj begin to move again but the last Imperial troops have been able to take this opportunity to make it to safety. Something has happened, at the moment of their triumph, something has shattered the arrogance of the Druj.
A Sliver of Hope
The last Imperial forces? Perhaps not quite.
As the final soldiers of the Northern Eagle prepare to climb the pass back into Morrow, a battered and exhausted messenger stumbles into their camp. Albaia of Shivers Reach brings news that her cadre of sentinels have managed to locate what they believe to be the central miasma pillars for the Clypion region, hidden in the south-western hills. They have been built amidst the ruins of the Halls of Lutum, a minor citadel built long, long ago to watch the borders with Redoubt and Spiral. If these pillars were to be destroyed, then any further attempts to seize Clypion would be made without the threat of the miasma. She has no idea how long it would take the Druj to re-establish their oppressive shroud over the hills, but there is speculation it might take as long as a year. It would be no particular help in dispelling the oppression that hangs over the rest of Zenith - but it would certainly make establishing a foothold easier.
Yet it is not the miasma pillars along that excite interest. She also brings a report that for some unknown reason the Druj have been gathering captured Urizeni warriors at the Halls of Lutum. It's hard for the Citadel Guard scouts to be sure, but there appear to be "several hundred", both recently captured soldiers of the Urizen army and students of the warlike arts captured during the fall of eastern Zenith. They are behind held in the cellars beneath the ruined Halls, while the Druj are constructing something - an arena perhaps - in the area around the miasma pillars.
The Citadel Guard have been able to get a message to the prisoners, but their ability to communicate is limited. While the Druj have been forcing them to labour for them, they in turn have been studying the Druj and their miasma. They can't be certain, but they believe that the orcs are planning to do something during the coming solstice. The sentinels aren't prepared to take the chance, and are planning to try and break free if they can but any rebellion is almost certainly doomed - but they are going to try and escape. Those who do not fall to the Druj blades will most likely take the gift of Kaela. If their rebellion were aided however, the Citadel Guard scouts would be in a position to help the rebels take the high passes through the mountains into Redoubt and safety; from there any survivors would likely be very keen to rejoin the Citadel Guard and seek out their own vengeance against the Druj.
The prognosticators have examined the Sentinel Gate and cautiously agree that there is a major conjunction that will allow Imperial heroes to reach the Halls of Lutum during the Winter Solstice. They caution that any attempt to fight the Druj in Zenith will be complicated by the presence of the Druj miasma, however, and recommend that if such an effort were made those making it would need a source of spiritual strength if they were to stand a chance against the orcs. Regardless, the decision is up to the military council; the full report from Albaia of Shiver's Reach, which will certainly contain more details, will be presented to them during the Winter Solstice muster.
Game Information : Zenith
A little over one-and-a-half thousand Imperial troops were slain in the attempt to liberate Zenith - half as many as might have been lost if the Druj had not raised their Spring magic protection over the territory. It's hard to guess how many Druj might have fallen, but as the Imperial strategy was more about capturing a beachhead than slaughtering the Druj it is unlikely that the orc death toll is higher.
In the end, Imperial and Druj forces in Zenith were almost perfectly matched, but this meant that the Empire was unable to make any headway in their invasion. The armies that launched the attack have withdrawn to Morrow to regroup and resupply and consider their next action.
The Iron Helms undertook the merciless assault order in Zenith; every army in the territory is aware of this.
A week after the Autumn Equinox, some fifteen thousand Jotun warriors climb the foothills pour through Pakanaan's Pass. Perhaps it was inevitable; ever since the incident in the Mournwold several years ago, there have been Jotun keen to test their strength against the Imperial Orcs. Now it seems that some of them are making their own opportunity to do so. They boil up from East Floes and smash down into Skarsind like two mailed fists.
The left fist is the Shield of the Mountain, the heavily armoured warriors under the banner of Torrfyr Blood-drunk. They punch past the Imperial Orcs' defences and down through the hills, quickly overwhelming the patrols watching the borders, and raiding westward into the heart of Skarsind. The presence of the Will in Skogei Glens blunts the force of their attacks, but Jotun warbands are sighted as far afield as Estermark and Gildermark. For the most part they avoid the forests of Hercynia, but there are a few reports of Jotun scouts in the Northpines, gently probing the Navarr defences.
The right fist is the Skjalderborn, the Queen of Kallsea's honour guard, lead by her champion Jorgen Hylasson. They lag a little behind the Shield of the Mountain, moving more slowly, consolidating the gains made by their comrades. It is not so much that their tactics are cautious, as that they seem to be a little tired. They were last seen fighting in Segura in the far south and for them to have reached Skarsind so quickly suggests that they have engaged in a serious forced march. They must be keen indeed to fight the Imperial Orcs.
Fighting alongside the armies are another six thousand or so Jotun under the banners of independent champions. Drawn by the opportunity to face the Imperial Orcs on their own ground, they are at the forefront of every engagement. While most of these champions are orc warriors, there are also easily two thousand human yegarra. They rally to the walrus banner of Eisa Winterborn, a draughir hero of the northern Jotun. In stark contrast to the reports of the yegarra fighting in Bregasland, these human Jotun seemingly feel they have nothing to prove. That said, they fight with the same strength and commitment to victory and honour as their orc comrades, revelling in battle and striving after victory with as much gusto as any ulvenwar or skjaldir.
The Jotun forces quickly establish control of the western end of the pass and thrust forward into Skarsind, striking remorselessly at every Imperial Orc settlement they find. There is no malice in their tactics - but rather a genuine zeal to face the Imperial Orcs on their own territory. To face them, to test their mettle, and to overcome them. If anything, they appear disappointed that there is not more resistance to their attack. Regardless there can be no doubt that they see the orcs of Skarsind as worthy opponents, deserving of respect, to be fought full-on without holding back an iota of their strength.
The Imperial Orcs do not lack vigilance; within a few days of the first reports of Jotun at Pakanaan's Pass, the garrison of The Will has mobilised. They march quickly west, picking up as many reavers and furloughed legionaries as they can find who are prepared to lift a weapon. They meet the rush of the Shield of the Mountain, and while they are at first overwhelmed, as the days pass more and more Imperial Orcs rally to their banner. The Jotun advance is slowed - but not stopped.
The Imperial Orcs and the Jotun are not the only forces in Skarsind - they are not even the only orcs. The Thule control Crow's Ridge - indeed they have a fortification of their own there. Crow's Keep is easily a match for the Will in both size and garrison - yet they send no aid to their Imperial Orc neighbours. On the other hand, neither do they offer any assistance to the Jotun. A fortnight after the orcs of the west begin their attack, the northern orcs send a messenger to Gildenheim via a merchant caravan travelling the northern roads. The Dragons have spoken. The Thule will not become involved in this conflict; they have sworn oaths and will not become foresworn by attacking the orcs of Skarsind or the orcs of Kallsea. There is however one piece of "aid" they are prepared to offer - they will raise Spring magic to minimise the loss of orc lives should the Imperial Orcs ask them to do so. The word of the Ambassador to Otkodov would be sufficient to secure that aid, and to ensure the magic persists as long as the Imperial Orcs control Skarsind.
The Thule may be concerned about loss of orc lives, but that is not a consideration the Jotun seem to share. Those Imperial Orcs who are defeated by the western invaders but do not fall in battle are given the Choice - though few Imperial Orcs are prepared to take it. A handful choose to join the Jotun, and a handful become thralls, but for most the choice is entirely unpalatable. Many of the people of Skarsind would rather die than accept chains. Even the chains of honour and oath that the Jotun offer are a heavy reminder of what their parents and grandparents fought so bitterly to escape. At first the Jotun seem taken aback - they have fought Imperial Orc warriors before but they don't seem to know what to make of people they would consider thralls who refuse to live as thralls. Their response varies. There are a few stories of Jotun taking the same route as the Lasambrian Jotun - driving those who will no take the Choice east with only the clothes on their back. A few take these uncooperative civilians prisoner, apparently in the belief they will eventually take the Choice when they understand it better.
For the most part, however, those who refuse to take the Choice are simply executed. Dispatched with a single sword-thrust to the heart. This galvanises those Imperial Orcs who hear of it. That the Jotun will so casually kill their fellow orcs causes outrage. It seems that the Jotun are of the opinion that those who will not fight will not face the Howling Abyss - that they are not dispatching them to oblivion but instead sending them back onto the wheel of reincarnation! It certainly fits with what has been learned of the beliefs of the former Jotun thralls in the Mournwold... but no Imperial Orc shares that certainty. Quite the contrary. As Irontide Lok has said, and as the Imperial Orc Assembly has agreed, "no evidence of reincarnation has ever been presented for our kind. Orcs have but one life." The Jotun are condemning those who will not fight, but who will not live as thralls, to oblivion.
Imperial Orcs and Jotun forces clash again and again on the slopes of the mountains and across the hills... and then the situation becomes even more complicated when the Fire of the South arrive.
My fires we resupply once again but we are not resting. We have orcs from Ossium to escort to Skarsind. Let us show them that the Empire takes care of its allies and show them the lands of the Imperial Orcs.Aracelis I Erigo, General of the Fire of the South
For the last few months, the Freeborn army has been far to the east, arranging an escort for those orcs of Ossium who wish to accept the invitation of the Imperial Orcs and start a new life in Skarsind. The trek is not a short one, but Skarsind is far from the malice of the Druj. Perhaps as many as eight thousand orcs are prepared to risk the long journey through the dark forests and wild hills of Varushka, for a chance to start a new life in the alpine homeland of the Imperial Orcs.
It is a significant logistical challenge to ensure that so many orcs, many of whom have never left the vicinity of their villages, cross the breadth of the Empire. Even with the Fire of the South's long experience of moving soldiers and supplies quickly over great distances, the civil service is stretched almost to breaking point supporting the Freeborn army. Together they prepare a suitable route that will keep both Freeborn and orc away from the darker parts of Karsk and Karov, and ensure that the orcs they are escorting understand the dangers of the deep woods, and bring sufficient supplies to see them to their new homes.
The sight of so many soldiers and orcs is one that few will readily forget. Between the migrants and their Freeborn escorts, the great column of humans and orcs stretches almost three miles along the roads of Varushka. At night, they are forced to make camp in great makeshift camps surrounded by rings of burning fire. Some Varushkan vales offer hospitality to this strange exodus; others close their doors against these strangers. For the most part the great straggling trail of brightly-garbed soldiers and orcs passes through the dark places of southern Varushka with comparatively little problem. There are several incidents with monsters attempting to prey on the Ossium orcs. While a few lives are lost - both orc and human - it is only a handful. if the orcs had been left to their own devices, encouraged to make their own way to Skarsind the death toll would have been significantly higher.
It takes the better part of six weeks to cross the two Varushkan territories... and when news of the Jotun attack reaches them it is far too late to turn back. The soldiers can't abandon the orcs. Turning around at this point would be a logistical nightmare. Their only choice is to go forward.
When the Fire of the South and their charges finally reach Gildermark, the Freeborn have barely time to catch their breath before they must take up their weapons to protect themselves and their fellow Imperial citizens from the Jotun attack. Speed is of the essence - the garrison of the Will are slowly being forced back towards Skogei Glens - but there are very few people indeed who can match the Fire of the South when it comes to moving swiftly and with purpose.
The Battle of Clattering Gulley
The arrival of the Fire of the South is timely indeed. A fortnight before the Winter Solstice, with the yegarra under Eisa Winterborn's walrus banner in the vanguard, the Jotun launch an attack against the Clattering Gulley, an ancient mana site long used by Winterfolk runesmiths and now a place of some importance to Imperial Orc magicians. Perhaps just as importantly, it is also the site of the Krampushall, lair of the enigmatic Krampus whose midwinter visits to Imperial Orcs and Winterfolk alike bring peculiar curses and peculiar insight.
By themselves, the garrison of the Will and the gathered Imperial Orcs could not hope to hold back the Jotun, As the sun rises, and the orcs begin the first manoeuvres of the Battle of Clattering Gully, the Fire of the South arrive. It is clear that many of them are exhausted, it has been a long couple of months. Despite their arduous journey they refuse to give in to their tiredness, reaching deep into their souls to find the strength to fight.
At first it's clear the Jotun aren't sure what to make of the brightly-garbed Freeborn; they are an unexpectedly incongruous addition to the fight. The orcs rally quickly however, seemingly just as keen to test themselves against these strange defenders of Skarsind as they are the Imperial Orcs.
Had both the Shield of the Mountain and the Skjaldirborn been present it is unlikely that Imperial forces could hold, even with the presence of the Freeborn army. Yet as the day draws on it becomes clear that only half the Jotun forces have taken the field. Perhaps it is with the intention of creating a more honourable fight; perhaps it is simply that the rest of the invading forces are engaged elsewhere. Regardless, the Empire faces only the forces of Eisa Winterborn and Torrfyr Blood-drunk. Yet for all that only half the Jotun are present, the battle is still close-fought.
The first engagements take place in the hills around the mana site; the defenders are quickly pushed back into the bone-filled canyons and sparse woodlands surrounding the gully itself. As the day wears on, the fighting even reaches the Krampushall itself. It looks desperate, but as the sun passes its zenith and begins the slow decline toward the west, the defenders are able to stop the Jotun advance; to hold them in place; and to slowly force them back. When the sun finally dips at last behind the western mountain, drowning the battlefield in shadow, the Jotun sound the withdrawal and pull back to their camps along the eastern end of the Pass proper.
All told, more than fifteen hundred Freeborn have laid down their lives to defend Skarsind from the Jotun. Comparisons are quickly drawn between their sacrifice and that of the Burning Falcon - the legendary Freeborn army that paid the ultimate price to protect the academy of Ishal from the Jotun in the days of Emperor Guntherm. There is little time for mourning however. Over the next week there are several more feints aimed at testing the resolve of the Imperial defenders, along with probing strikes launched against the Will in Skogei Glens. The Jotun may have been repulsed from the Clattering Gully - for now - but their enthusiasm for conquest does not seem to have slackened.
Working with the Imperial Orcs who know the area, and with a handful of Winterfolk who refused to leave when Skarsind became an orc homeland, the Fire of the South send out bands of scouts and spies to try and get a feel for what the Jotun are up to. The news they bring back is grim. Eisa Winterborn remains camped in the hills above the Clattering Gully, apparently waiting for the Imperial forces to quit the place. As the Winter Solstice draws near, the Shield of the Mountain warriors camped with her fall back, and are replaced by a number of Skjaldirborn - grim Jotun champions who seem to be preparing alongside the yegarra for... something.
It soon becomes apparent what that "something" may involve. The scouts report that someone - presumably the rest of the Skjaldirborn - are in the progress of completing an epic act of runecarving. With pick and shovel they have dug Mawrig, Rune of Storms, and Kyrop, Rune of Weakness into the walls of the Pass itself. The orcs guarding the pass have been supplemented by several ice giants - mighty champions of the eternal Cathan Canae - but also by a cadre of stocky spear-wielding koboldi, chosen representatives of the eternal Adamant. Perhaps even more troubling, those same scouts have spotted something unexpected moving around in the camp of Eisa Winterborn. The Krampus itself, that peculiar spirit associated with the Winterfolk, has apparently been meeting with the draugir leader of the yegarra and with the orc Jotun. It has not been meeting with the Freeborn or the Imperial Orcs, for all that they are guarding its apparent lair.
A week before the Winter Solstice, a messenger comes from Eisa Winterborn. Imperial forces may wish to quit the area of the Clattering Gully, as the Jotun intend to bring down the mountains and anyone who is caught beneath them will likely be crushed. She will understand if they choose to stand their ground however; but bravery will be no shield against the ice and stone that will soon wash the Clattering Gully away.
It could be a bluff... but the Jotun are not a people who waste much of their time on deception. It is impossible for the Fire of the South to take the pass and prevent the destruction - they simply do not have the numbers to dislodge the Jotun. But there is a chance yet to save the Clattering Gully for civil service prognosticators have identified a major conjunction of the Sentinel Gate that will allow Imperial heroes to reach the Pakanaan's Pass.
If the pass is sealed, then the Empire will be unable to move any armies from Skarsind to Sermersuaq. The only other route accessible to large-scale movement of troops and supplies is through Crow's Ridge into the SIlver Peaks and it seems highly unlikely the Thule will be prepared to cooperate with such movement. Still, with Pakanaan's Pass sealed it would also mean the Jotun would be unable to attack into Skarsind from Wintermark - at least not without the aid of the Thule. Presumably, whatever destruction they intend to wreak in the western Skarsind mountains will take a little time to come into effect - it seems unlikely that they are preparing to sacrifice the Skjaldirborn and the Shield of the Mountain by trapping them in Imperial territory - but it is always dangerous to make assumptions about how committed the Jotun are to their cause.
Game Information : Skarsind
The Jotun are a little shy of halfway to conquering Pakanaan's Pass.
A very large number of orc emigrants from Ossium are currently camped in a makeshift tent-city on the outskirts of Gildenheim. Further details of this situation will be provided in the Winds of Fortune in the run up to the Winter Solstice.
If the Jotun hold Pakanaan's Pass, it will be impossible for the Empire to move armies from Skarsind to Sermersuaq without the express permission of the Thule who control the only other major pass through the mountains and whatever accord the northern orcs have with the orcs of the west makes that unlikely. We've adjusted the Skarsind page to reflect this restriction. It's still possible for smaller groups to pass the mountains, or for armies to pass through Hercynia into Hahnmark, but easy access to Sermersuaq will be restricted by the presence of the Jotun armies.
The Will (of the Wintermark) has played a major part in slowing the Jotun invasion, but has not been brought fully into play as it was not directly attacked. It has neither inflicted nor sustained casualties - not will it do so unless or until the Jotun directly attack the Skogei Glens.
Participation : Skarsind
As with the Bregasland battle opportunity mentioned above, if the military council chooses to take advantage of the major conjunction at the Clattering Gully, we will ask the majority of player volunteers to take on the roles of Yegarra. In this case, they will be playing human warriors from the northern Jotun kingdom of Kallsea.
You can help us make this battle even better by bringing along any Jotun-style kit or armour you have, as well as any iconic Jotun weaponry particularly axes, maces, and circular shields. Javelins are ideal if you have them. This will help us create a dramatic battle opportunity where the Empire must face down a predominantly human opponent. You can find out more about the iconic Jotun look here but the key element for portraying these northern Yegarra is plenty of leather and fur, over mail as their iconic look. We understand the difficulty of getting to an event with additional kit at the best of times, especially as it will not be possible to tell before Friday night whether the military council will elect to take this battle, but if you are able to bring such kit along it will improve the experience as well as that of the players you are fighting against,
If you are already part of an elite monster unit that can outfit for a Jotun warband, and have your own personal orc mask, then please come to battle prep as you normally would. If you are part of such a unit but do not have your own orc mask then you can either monster as a non-fighting thrall alongside your orc friends or join one of the other Yegarra units. We will not be running mixed units of human and orc warriors for this battle.
IMPORTANT - we will NOT be issuing any orc masks to players for this battle opportunity should it be taken. Our masks are dried and spritzed with disinfectant after every battle, but we are including a set of battle opportunities that do not include shared masks at the next event to further reduce coronavirus risks while the current situation is still evolving.