On the approach to the Spring Equinox, Imperial prognosticators have identified two potential opportunities to use a major conjunction to send large numbers of Imperial heroes to Kahraman and Bregasland. Both conjunctions take place on Saturday morning; the Imperial Military Council will choose between then, and which nations will be involved, during the muster on Friday evening.

Braydon's Jasse (Battle)

The squat crenelated towers, and sweeping walls of Fort Braydon have guarded the region since before the founding of the Empire. Its white granite edifice has long supported a garrison that quelled the raids of the Kahraman Hills orcs that dwelt in the northern hills. Whilst built to protect the miners of the rugged hills to the west, it also served as a defiant edifice that solidified the Freeborn's claim on these lands. A proclamation from before the founding of the Empire that humans sought to oust the Lasambrian orcs from the territory. The Jotun armies, the warbands of their heroes, and their human yegarra allies have dealt a hammer blow to the hearts of the defenders of Kahraman. The fortress, once a centre of bustling trade and garrison to passionate defenders, now belongs to the Jotun, their banners adorning the walls.

The Jotun victory in Kahraman this season owes as much to the presence of the elite warbands of their heroes as it does to their armies. These highly mobile units are able to operate like the Empire's military units, moving to support their armies on campaign wherever they are most needed. The Jotun have only a small number of them, around half a dozen as far as the Empire can tell, but each is vastly bigger than the Imperial equivalent, ten or twenty times the size at least. Just like the Empire, these elite units can do more than just support an army, they are capable of carrying out daring raids when the opportunity presents itself.

Three of these bands have sent their war-banners, escorted by a contingent of their warriors, to the valley of Morogvejo near the border of Kahraman. There's nothing special about this area that anyone can identify. The only item of note is the old ruined watchtower on top of Morogvejo hill. Centuries ago guards would keep watch over neighbouring Mournwold, Tassato, or Madruga, to warn of any impending attack, but the tower is nothing but rubble these days.

The only Jotun of note who is actually here in person is Alok Surefoot, along with a large number of his fellow ghodi. But something is happening, the Jotun guard their war banners very carefully - they wouldn't have sent them here without reason. According to a captured yegarra, the ghodi are planning to cast their runes just before the height of the sun of the equinox. Once they have consulted the omens the warbands will be given their orders for the coming season.

The prognosticator's report of a major conjunction to the Morogvejo valley on the Saturday of the Equinox.

Objective: Discover the reason for the Jotun's meeting

  • Intercept one or more of the orders the ghodi have handed over to the banner-bearers
  • The orders will provide vital intelligence on what these warbands plan to do next
  • Seize the Walrus Banner, Standard of the Howling Bear, and The Burning Oak banners
  • The Jotun will attempt to recover them in the future

By the time of the conjunction, the Jotun ghodi will have distributed three sets of orders, one to each of the three warbands. Eisa Winterborn, Yanya Uranduln, and Stephen of Sarcombe are not at Morgovejo, so the orders will be in the possession of the banner-bearers, as they are the most honoured member of each warband present. Imperial forces should look for Eisa's Walrus Banner, Yanya's Howling Bear Banner, and Stephen's Burning Oak Standard. The Empire will have a short window to attack the forces gathered in the valley and attempt to intercept the orders before the warbands withdraw.

The Empire can also capture these standards from their bearers at the same time. Whilst the loss of the banners would have little impact on the Jotun's plans, they are important symbols of worth to the Jotun. If there were carried into battle by the Empire in future, then it is expected that the Jotun - or eat least their leaders - would make efforts to recover them; possibly going out of their way to do so, abandoning objectives or altering their own goals during an engagement to do so.

Objective: Slay the Favoured of Hayaak

  • Kill the ghodi, Alok Surefoot and capture the Spear of Bounty
  • Stop the Jotun sending heralds to inflict damage on Imperial armies in the territory
  • The Spear could be used to negotiate with the eternals of the Summer Realm

Alok Surefoot's legend has grown over the last year following a quest he undertook to recover the Spear of Bounty, a relic of Hayaak. Since then, he was victorious at the battle at Jaelwif's Mound and called on a powerful boon of the Gryphon-King. That ritual led to a hunt of vengeful heralds stalking the tundra of Sermersuaq, and slaughtering many of the Thule Dragon's prized warlocks. The ghodi is currently protected by a band of fierce heralds of the Summer Realm, hunters of the Prince-In-Exile, and a sign of Hayaak's favour.

The Spear of Bounty is understood to have long held a place of worth within the ghodi who court the lieges of the Summer Realm. After he claimed the relic, Alok gained the Summer eternal's favour, which he used to strike against the Thule warlocks in Sermersuaq. Prognosticators believe that the ghodi plans to call on the power of the Hawk Lord again - only this time his target will be the Imperial armies in Kahraman.

If this opportunity is not taken, or the Spear is not seized from Alok, then Hayaak will dispatch his heralds to hunt any Imperial forces present in Kahraman. Like all the Jotun, Alok hates the Navarr with a passion, considering them no better than human Druj, so they will be his first target. Over the next year Imperial forces will suffer two hundred and fifty casualties each season split between any Navarr armies present or any other Imperial armies present if there are no Navarr forces here. Obviously, if there are no Imperial armies of any nation present, then the heralds will not have anyone to hunt.

In addition, the Unicorn Prince has sent word that should the Empire be able to recover the Spear of Bounty, most of of the eternals of the Summer Realm would be eager to acquire it. The Dawnish enchanters, for example, could offer the Spear to any of the major Summer courts, Rhianos, Meraud, Adamant, Cathan Canae, Eleonaris or Jaheris, in return for their patronage of the Eastern Sky. All of them have a reason to want to have a hold over the Gryphon-King.

Graven's Rock (Battle)

Imperial forces have driven back the Jotun forces in Bregasland, liberating the Grey and North Fens, The Rushes, and making gains into Ottermire. The barbarians are nothing if not resolute, they retreat steadily and in good order pulling back and regrouping close to the massive monolithic form of Graven Rock. The dank marshes have claimed Mathilda Fisher's dreams of Free Bregas. The households that had acknowledged her rule have thrown their doors open and welcomed the Empire as liberators.

But despite everything, the would be Queen of Bregasland refuses to surrender. With defeat inevitable, she is sending messages to everyone who will answer the call to gather at Graven Rock. It appears she intends to March west, just as the Marchers once marched out of Dawn. The difference, as she makes clear to her followers, is that she intends to be return.

Mathilda and her forces are gathering at Graven Rock. They are now they are beaten, but she is determined to make an orderly retreat. The Steward of Bregasland has hunkered down in the woods below Graven Rock, in Rock Foot Wood; once home to a popular sheep cheese maker. Under the oak and alder Mathilda is holding court, marshalling her most loyal followers to her, and along with her remaining Jotun allies, plotting their escape from Bregasland. They intended to retreat to Hordalant beaten but not broken. Some of the followers of Mathilda - the levies from the fens of Hordalant, and those Bregas households who threw in their lot with the Fishers - were beginning to panic with disarray setting in among the bill blocks and beater troops. Fortunately Mathilda has some powerful assistance in the form of Bushel Sykes who is there to bolster morale.

The prognosticators report a conjunction that will allow the Empire to reach Rock Fort Wood in Graven Rock on the Saturday. The conjunction offers a small chance to defeat her, before she flees back to Hordalant. Her closest and staunchest fighters - mostly Fishers themselves - will remain in the woods, with the orcs and rebellious Marchers taking up the defence in the field.

Objective: Execute Mathilda Fisher

  • Mathilda Fisher will be on the field close to her Blue Eel Banner
  • Execution by a Marcher will avoid Mathilda becoming a martyr
  • An obvious show trial, and her public execution by a Marcher, will avoid Mathilda becoming a martyr
  • As Mathilda Fisher is not an Imperial citizen this must happen on the battlefield
  • Dreams of a Free Bregas will die with Mathilda's execution

The Cousin's War was a tumultuous time in Marcher history, and Mathilda has spun honey-dripped lies about how the wrong side won. To properly put this matter to rest, not only does she need to die, but it must be done good and proper. The kind of defeat that would convince any wayward Bregas that the Marchers really meant business.

If Mathilda escapes the field, or the opportunity is not taken then the Fishers will retreat to Hordalant. The Jotun armies are likely make a fighting withdrawl, giving ground in the face of any Imperial advance, but the Fishers and their allies will be long gone. They won't stay gone though, they'll resurface at some point in the future, like weevils in bad grain. It might take seasons, it might take years, but the Empire won't be rid of Mathilda Fisher until she's dead.

If she's killed but not executed - if she's cut down on the field, then her influence will live on. Those who believed in the idea of Free Bregas will start to paint her death as a heroic final stand against whatever nations the Empire sends to confront her. That won't have any immediate effect, but the Empire knows from the recent experiences in Mournwold how dangerous it can be when resentment and rebellion take root in the Marches. Support for Free Bregas could become a rallying cry in the marshes any time something happens to upset those who live her.

The Marcher egregore has indicated that the best way to avoid the steward becoming seen as a heroic martyr for the rebel's cause, is to ensure that Mathilda has her head staved in by a true Marcher. It'll need to be a proper execution, she needs to be denounced for her crimes and then sentenced to death, so everyone can see her fate. Provided some Loyal Marcher takes responsibility for making that happen then it'll crush the uprising as dead as a rat under a millstone. There'll be no more talk of Free Bregas after that.

Mathilda Fisher will be on the battlefield close to her Blue Eel banner. The banner has flown at the front of Mathilda's armies since her troops first entered the fens from Hordalant over a year ago. If the Empire can defeat Mathilda and capture the banner, it will make a fine trophy in the Military Council tent or perhaps decorating some Marcher encampment.

Objective: Deal with Bushel Sykes

Reckless violence and lack of Vigilance have led to disaster in Whittle and Mournwold before, lending credence to the poisonous words that Mathilda Fisher sows in Bregasland. Let us turn to the Vigilant path, and root out Fisher's falsehoods as we prove her wrong through our virtuous action to free Bregasland.

Edmund of Barrowby, Winter Solstice 384YE, Upheld (Greater Majority 121-0)
  • Bushel Sykes is a poacher Dedicated to Loyalty who is supporting Mathilda Fisher
  • It is difficult to root out the traitors in Bregasland while Bushel Sykes remains active
  • Excommunicating or executing the traitor on the battlefield would allow the Marcher Assembly to root out any traitors from the Dour Fens

Bushel Sykes, a cantankerous personality from Ottermire, flew his true colours last season declaring for Mathilda and the Free Bregas clause. Wise in the ways of the dank fens he assisted the Jotun in widening the Odd Way, threatening the defences of Oddmire. Since then, along with his band of beaters, Old 'Shel has been spreading the word of rebellion among the people of Bregas, seeding loyalty to the fens over the distant Empire. As the Jotun were pushed back over the campaign season, Bushel took to anointing any who would listen, strengthening the weakening morale among the rebels and their Fisher allies with auras of Loyalty. If he hadn't taken this course of action, then the Fisher's strength could well have collapsed like a ill-pegged tent in a storm.

Under sight of Graven Rock, Sykes has formed a makeshift base from where he spreads news of Bregasland, and the whole Marchers, free from the rule of the Empire. In this consecrated area he has instilled a solid following to his cause, bolstering the morale of all around to the beat of a drum. When soldiers come to him he is asking them "What have you done for Free Bregas?". Reaching Sykes before he can exhaust his supply of liao and strengthen the minds of the Free Bregas troops will aid in the battle, weakening enemy forces. As a priest of Loyalty, Old 'Shel's survival is a threat to the liberation of Bregasland and the suppression of the Fisher's uprising. If he is left running around the fens, then there is still a chance he could create auras to cause trouble or keep the insurrection bubbling along, much like an Imperial priest enacting a mandate might. Currently his presence is enough to stymie the Marcher assembly's attempts to root out Fisher's allies in the territory.

Excommunicating Sykes will put an end to his ability to use liao to rally support for Mathilda Fisher. It might mean he rots outside the Labyrinth, or that he comes back as a rat, but surely that's what the treacherous poaching bastard deserves, even if a judgement hasn't been formally issued through the Synod. Of course the Empire could just execute him, it won't send the same message, but it will also stop him opposing the Marcher Assembly. In either case then it will lead to a mandate for the Marcher National Assembly next season to root out those who believed in the cause of Mathilda Fisher.