She looked across to Aubie, who had his bow drawn and nocked, but the arrow pointed at the ground. He was scanning the trees, just as she was, looking for a target. Three or four times a day she caught him fiddling with his new eye-patch. She knew how much it chafed him that his depth perception was ruined - but he stubbornly refused to abandon the bow.
"Do you think they will come?" asked Elena. She stood on the other side of Aubie from Tita. She had half a dozen javelins in a quiver on her back, but her hands were busy. The wooden needles clack-clack-clacked against each other as she deftly turned russet wool into a little hooded coat. She seemed remarkably unperturbed.
"They haven't come yet," said Tita slowly. "That doesn't mean they won't come this time, but I think they are keeping them away."
Tita jerked her head without looking to the spindly figures that stood in a great ring around the steading. They had arrived one day without warning, frozen into place with their arms outstretched and their heads bowed, like living statues. They brought with them a withering blight that killed every plant within their circle from the smallest herb to the largest tree. But their presence caused the vallornspawn to falter and draw back, giving a desperately needed respite to the defenders of the Broch.
Every night, though, Tita's sleep was tormented with nightmares. Each night she saw the faces of every friend, every family member, she had failed to save. They stared at her accusingly, unspeaking, from the moment she closed her eyes until the moment she opened them again. She knew the others were having similar problems, so she kept them to herself.
Elena continued to knit.
"Are you not worried that the baby might turn out Draughir?" asked Tita suddenly. Aubie took his eye off the forest for a moment to give her a hard look but she ignored it. His wife shook her head.
"It will mean they'll be tough," she said absently. "And right now that feels like a good quality for a child to have."They continued to watch in silence as the vallornspawn gathered just out of bowshot, more and more of them every day. Waiting for the defenders of the Broch to let down their guard.
- 1 Overview
- 2 This is It
- 3 West Wood Weirwood
- 4 Resolution
- 5 Further Reading
- The Empire has held back the vallorn for another season as detailed in Winds of War
The Navarr and their allies have faced down the latest wave of horror spawned in the green heart of Brocéliande. The force of the attacks has been growing each season for the last nine months, and if the vates are to be believed will shortly reach a crescendo. A tidal wave of vegetative malice seeks to sweep away the vestige of civilisation that has taken root in Elerael and Boar's Dell. If the Empire can resist for three more months, that should be an end of it - at least for the time being. Yet it is possible that new opportunity may come out of the chaos - if the forces of civilisation can just endure one more season of horror...
At the same time, on the other side of the Empire, victorious Imperial forces have driven the vallorn of Liathaven out of the West Wood and claimed not only the region but also an unlooked-for treasure - a pristine weirwood forest ripe for development.
This is It
- The Navarr and their allies could continue to hold one or both of the beleaguered regions but it will be a significant challenge.
- This coming season military units will be able to select Slow the Vallorn as a specific paid work action
- Military units will receive payment in herbs from the grateful Navarr people who live here
Any character with a military unit can contribute to the defence of Brocéliande. The option to "Slow the Vallorn" will appear on the independent action dropdown after the event. A standard military unit will contribute 100 military strength if assigned to support this action, plus an additional 20 force for each rank of upgrade or enchantment. Magic that enhances a military unit's strength with these actions such as Merciless Wrath of the Reaver will be helpful, but rituals that empower a warband to work with an army, fortification, or spy network (for example) will not help with this option.
As expected, the vallorn’s urge to expand grows stronger. As before, the amount of force needed has dramatically increased over that required last season. The vates believe this is the highest point it will reach - hopefully.
Up to 8,000
The vallorn's spread will go unimpeded. The Broch will fall and the majority of the defenders will be consumed by the vallorn. The vallorn will spread into Elerael and Boar's Dell, completely overrunning each region.
8,001 - 15,000
The vallorn will push into Elerael but will be held back in Boar's Dell. The Broch will fall, but at least half the people there will be able to make it to safety.
15,001 - 30,000
the vallorn will not expand into Elerael or Boar's Dell; the Broch however will be overrun by the vallorn. In this scenario however it will be possible to get the inhabitants to safety before it finally falls.
The vallorn will not expand into Elerael or Boar's Dell; the Broch will be saved. Not only will the vallorn's expansion be stopped but its strength will be depleted enough that there would be an opportunity to try and clear the vallorn from Dark Ranging (in a similar manner to which the West Wood was reclaimed after the defeat of the vallorn's expansion in Liathaven).
Currently, the Navarr have secured the aid of the congregations of Highguard (who provide an amount of strength based on their number of congregations but should be at least 500), from the Great Forest Orcs (the Spears of the Pine provide 1,000 military strength), from the eternal Tharim (his barons and thralls provide another 1,000 strength assuming he retains amity), and from the knights-errand and questing knights of Dawn (bonus rewards for the Dawnish characters if they support this action.)
The Navarr of the steadings continue to support those prepared to help defend them. Any military unit that takes this action will be paid in herbs - the full income they would normally expect.
The Armies of the Empire
- Imperial armies can participate in the defence of Brocéliande.
- A maximum of 15,000 military strength can be provided by armies in Boar's Dell, and a maximum of 15,000 military strength can be provided by armies in Elerael
As before, Imperial armies could hold the vallorn back in each region - provided they had enough strength. Armies committed to defend one of the two regions contribute their military strength to the requirements above up to a maximum of 15,000 effective military strength in each region. Any strength contributed by armies to the defense of a region above 15,000 would be wasted.
To count, a general would need to move their army to Brocéliande. The territory is not easily accessible thanks to the presence of the vallorn. Boar's Dell can only be reached safely from Semmerholm (or in theory Drycastle, but the presence of the Druj makes that much less feasible). An army wishing to move to Elerael will almost certainly need to do so from Reikos - the only alternative would be for the armies to fight their way through several regions of aggressive vallorn, which would likely inflict significantly more casualties.
The civil service predict that armies striving to defend a vallorn-free region of Brocéliande will take around 1,500 casualties depending on the order given - though the general could submit defending orders to reduce those casualties. As with the strength caps, this estimation is per region - that is 1,500 casualties to the armies in Elerael and 1,500 to the armies in Boar's Dell. Such armies will benefit normally from any enchantments or military units assigned to help - but the limit of 15,000 military strength will apply to the total force brought to bear by the armies in each region. Where there are multiple armies in a region, casualties would be spread between them as normal.
Note that while military units can support armies committed to Brocéliande as normal, they receive only the usual payment for doing so (that is, a share of the Imperial Guerdon if the army is eligible). They do not receive the payment of herbs outlined under the Slow the Vallorn action.
- Dawnish military units continue to receive additional rewards.
- Highborn congregations continue to support the defenders in Brocéliande. It is difficult to predict precisely how much aid they provide but it is likely to be at least 500 military strength.
- The Great Forest Orcs have sent 1,000 military strength to support the fight against the vallorn.
- The eternal Zakalwe has provided a boon to the Grandmaster of the Rod and Shield.
The Navarr do not fight alone. At the urging of Ranae de Rondell of Dawn, knights come to the greenwood. The nobles and yeofolk of Astolat and Semmerholm continue to cheer those who seek glory in the fight against the vallorn. At the same time, the call of the Hazelelponi of the Shattered Tower echoes across Highguard, and the congregations answer sending much needed aid in the form of soldiers, and supplies.
The call has also gone out to the Spears of the Pine. Cybi Farkas, Senator for Therunin, has called the Great Forest Orcs to send their warriors to help protect Brocéliande. It has taken them some time to mobilise, but now perhaps as many as a thousand orcs come to fight the vallorn. They are obviously somewhat concerned to leave their people defenceless against the malice of the Druj, but now that work has begun on the Holt of the Oak they seem less worried. They will stay until the job is done - provided their people do not have greater need them, of course.
Two eternals have provided direct aid to the Navarr - albeit one of them at a price. The Bound King of the The Thrice-cursed Court has been given leave by the Imperial Conclave to feast on the herb gardens and forests of Navarr in return for his aid. A black frost strikes herb gardens across Hercynia, Miaren, and Therunin, withering herbs and draining the essence from trees and creatures alike to satiate Tharim's endless hunger, but Tharim's assistance is secured for as long as he keeps his amity and continues to feed on the vitality of the three Navarr territories.
Finally, the eternal Zakalwe has provided the Grandmaster of the Rod and Shield Conclave order with a boon intended to provide support to the defenders of Brocéliande. The boon takes the form of a crystal that can be used to aid an entire coven in performing the complex Autumn ritual Find the Best Path - an enchantment that allows an army to move great distances in a single season. All Zakalwe asked in return is that when the boon was used, at least one Imperial army fought to protect Brocéliande in the following season. The gem will retain its potency until used, or until the end of the Summer Solstice - by which time the eternal considers the matter of Brocéliande will be resolved one way or another.
The Sentinel Gate
- There are conjunctions of the Sentinel Gate that will allow Imperial heroes to intervene in Brocéliande
Further Aid : Warriors of the Scorpion Queen
- The Spider King will provide aid against the vallorn if the Navarr can meet its price
While the Queen of Scorpions seems to have little interest in the vallorn itself, it claims to be a staunch ally of the Navarr - indeed, its interest in helping them secure a new army to fight the vallorn has already been discussed. Following its meeting with a delegation led by the Spring Archmage during the last summit, the Silent Hunter has extended an offer of aid to the Navarr should they wish to accept it. It can provide significant military force to aid the Navarr to defend Brocéliande but in return it requires herbs. Lots, and lots, of herbs.
For every ten doses of magical herb - True Vervain, Imperial Roseweald, Bladeroot, Cerulean Mazzarine, and Marrowort - the Marshal of Centipedes will arrange for a warband to help fight against the vallorn (equivalent to 100 military strength). The Eyes in the Dark can provide up to fifty such warbands if the Navarr are able to provide it with 500 doses of magical herbs in one go. Arhallogen will send an emissary to Anvil, to the Navarr camp, on Sunday afternoon at two o'clock to collect the herbs - should the Navarr have collected any of course...
Further Aid : The Bound King's Largesse
- Tharim offers to provide further aid if the Conclave is prepared to satiate his hunger
The Bound King is aware that the strength of the vallorn has increased again, and his heralds have delivered news that he is prepared to offer further assistance if the Imperial Conclave wishes. If the Conclave passes a Declaration of Concord giving him permission to extend his feeding to the herb gardens and forests of Highguard, the Brass Coast, the League, and Wintermark he will be able to increase the number of barons, dust witches, and bound guardians he sends to Brocéliande sufficient to add a total of 3,000 force. Every herb garden in those nations will suffer a loss of two random herbs and each forest will lose two resources for the next six months (until the start of the Winter Solstice 384YE).
An Unexpected Proposal
- The eternal Yaw'nagrah has sent an emissary to propose an agreement.
As the battle to prevent the vallorn washing over Brocéliande has raged, it has been clear that one of the eternals has been heavily invested in driving that expansion. Yaw'nagrah, the Green Mother, has sent heralds to push the vallorn and aid the vallornspawn, in conjunction with a cabal of humans who call themselves the "Heirs of Terunael".
It is Yaw'nagrah's interference with the vallorn that first earned her the enmity of the Imperial Conclave, following evidence provided by Imperial heroes who fought against her machinations at Return that she was trying to rouse Therunin to wakefulness. Since then she has abandoned all pretence and openly works to spread the vallorn first through Liathaven, and now through Brocéliande. It thus comes as a surprise when she sends an emissary to Anvil to speak to the civil service.
A willowy, androgynous youth with emerald eyes and flowers in their hair appears near the Castle of Thorns in Astolat a fortnight before the Summer Solstice and delivers a message. A bargain, if the Empire wishes to accept it.
If the Empire leaves Brocéliande, abandoning it to the vallorn, then after the entire place is part of the "green wonder" Yaw'nagrah and her allies will turn their attention away from the Empire to the Mallum. The Navarr must know that there is a vallorn in the lands of the Druj, and Yaw'nagrah knows that the Empire is at war with them. If the Empire permits her to cover Brocéliande in the vallorn, then her next target will be the vallorn of Béantal Dol. As they have driven the expansion of the vallorn of Brocéliande, so they will drive the expansion of the vallorn there. Furthermore, for the next year she will refrain from any interference with the vallorn of the Empire, or any scheme that would be to the detriment of its people.
- The Citadel Guard are able to assess some magical opportunities and offer suggestions of how they might work
The Urizen army, the Citadel Guard, is currently in Elerael, helping to defend the Navarr there from the vallorn's expansion. They have already uncovered some useful information about the way magic interacts with the vallorn. More importantly, their unique qualities as an army of magicians mean that it will be possible to use them as a conduit with which to target territory-wide rituals in Brocéliande.
There are many rituals that could be cast in this fashion, but with an opportunity to look at the vallorn "close-up" as it were, the magicians of the Citadel Guard have two observations to make.
Firstly, using either Rivers Run Red or Rivers of Life in the territory in its current state would be disastrous. The former would simply make the situation worse in every conceivable fashion - dramatically increasing the strength of the vallorn and also increasing casualties taken by Imperial forces to no good ends. The latter would actually be just as bad in the long run - while it would reduce the casualties taken by an Imperial army in the territory it would also increase the vigour of the vallorn, making it harder to keep it at bay (which would also lead to increased casualties). Either ritual is likely to increase the amount of military strength needed to reach each stage of the Slow the Vallorn action by half as much again.
One other ritual that might be relevant is Wither the Seed. After some discussion between Urizen magicians and Navarr vates, the consensus is that while the ritual will not make it easier to deal with the vallorn this season, it will still have an impact. First of all, it will be harder to rouse the vallorn in future. Secondly, if the Imperial forces are able to weaken the vallorn sufficiently that there is an opportunity to try and clear it permanently from Dark Ranging, the opportunity to do so will certainly exist for at least a year, perhaps longer.
Clearing Dark Ranging
- If the Empire holds back the vallorn completely, an opportunity to liberate Dark Ranging will become available.
Holding the vallorn back while it expends its strength may create an opportunity to remove its presence from Dark Ranging. The window of opportunity would be slight - the vallorn of Brocéliande is the most powerful in the Empire and will recover its strength very quickly even in light of the improvements to the trods and the presence of the grey pilgrims. It is not an exact science, but the vates believe that if the Empire can hold it back until the start of the Autumn Equinox, its urge to expand will be blunted and they will they have six months to try and claim Dark Ranging. If the Citadel Guard magicians are correct, that period could be increased by a further six months if a potent curse such as Wither the Seed were laid on the territory at any time before it recovers its full strength.
It is hard to predict how difficult this would be - magical scrying will give little guidance unless the opportunity actually materialises. Recent experience of the Empire in fighting the vallorn in Liathaven would provide a model for the kind of effort required - bearing in mind that the Brocéliande vallorn is significantly more vicious and powerful than the Liathaven vallorn.
One obvious benefit of clearing Dark Ranging would be that the Empire would be able to move armies through Brocéliande - between Reikos and Semmerholm - without having to force their way through the vallorn. One potential downside is that the same would be true of the Druj should they invade Brocéliande. Regardless, however, the vallorn would still dominate Brocéliande meaning that any army - Imperial or otherwise - would be forced to stop when entering the territory.
West Wood Weirwood
- A forest of weirwood has been located in West Wood
While the Empire was engaged in the arduous task of freeing the West Wood from the clutches of the vallorn, a warband of Imperial Orcs found a forest of weirwood trees living in the blight. The trees were clearly unaffected by the twisting power of the vallorn - indeed they seemed to be maintaining a sanctuary of sorts within the miasma that even the most adventurous vallornspawn were loathe to enter. With the vallorn driven out, and the region claimed by the Empire, the opportunity exists to begin harvesting the wood from the forest.
Having a weirwood forest and having a regular supply of weirwood are not automatically the same thing however. There is more to harvesting weirwood than going into the West Wood with an axe, however. As with the Pride of Ikka's Tears, it will require significant investment to turn the grove of trees into a Bourse resource. Establishing a woodcutting operation - and also ensuring that the trees are maintained and kept healthy with new saplings replacing trees that are cut down - will require an investment of 75 Thrones. It is easier to establish a foresting operation than a mine, however, and work would only take three months. The first harvest of weirwood would be available in time for the Winter Solstice, meaning the new Bourse seat could be appointed alongside the other Weirwood seats.
In its current state, the forest would produce 12 wains of weirwood each season. The upkeep to the treasury would be 10 Thrones each season.
One of the limitations on the amount of weirwood that could be harvested each season is the relatively isolated location of the weirwood grove. West Wood has been part of the vallorn for the last ten centuries - there are no roads suitable for an ox cart in the entire region. There are a few in West Ranging, but only the roads that go north to Bregasland are usable given the Jotun still control the rest of the territory - and those roads lead to the deepest, darkest parts of the Marcher territory.
The first way to improve the production of the weirwood forest would be to construct a road connecting the foresting camp to West Ranging. This would require clearing a path of trees wide enough for an ox cart to get down. The cost to the Senate would be 25 Thrones, and the work could be done alongside the work to establish the forest camp. A simply dirt road would improve production of the new Bourse seat by 4 wains of weirwood each season (bringing the total to 16 wains).
Once a road was built, the weirwood could be transported to West Ranging. If Liath's Ring and Liaven's Glen were liberated from the Jotun the Empire would be able to take advantage of the same fine roads the Jotun carved to transport their white granite to the Mournwold to bring the bounty of weirwood to Green March or Southmoor and thence to the rest of the Empire. In this case, the amount of weirwood produced each season could be increased by a further 4 wains of weirwood to a total of 20 wains of weirwood. It would also help the prosperity of the Mournwold, especially the new market town of Sarcombe as it is likely that weirwood caravans would go through the town following the same route that trade between Liathaven and the Marchers has always taken.
Finally, the Senate could commission the construction of a fine paved road, similar to that created by the Jotun that runs through West Ranging to Southmoor. This would require an additional 15 wains of white granite and 30 crowns of labour, in addition to the cost to clear the trees and produce a basic road. If this were done, the seasonal production of the forest would increase by a further 4 wains each season potentially bringing the total production of the forest to 24 wains of weirwood each season.
Obviously, the new forest cannot be allocated until the basic logging camp has been established. Once this were done, the Senate would be able to choose whether custodianship of the new forest would be a national or Imperial position. If they allocate the forest as a national position, they would need to choose an Imperial nation to take custody of it for the time being. This does not tie the hands of the Senate however. Once the territory were liberated from the Jotun and assigned, the forest would automatically become the legal responsibility of whichever nation Liathaven were given to.
The new Bourse seat will need a name. The Senate motion that established the lumber camp would also be responsible for determining the name of the new Bourse seat.
Liathaven is still a Jotun territory, and the forest lies along the western borders of Liathaven. This places it in a somewhat precarious position should the Jotun return with conquest in mind. The Empire is only holding on to West Ranging by the slenderest margin and if the Jotun conquered that region again then West Wood would be entirely isolated making any further development of the weirwood forest questionable at best. At the same time the western orcs are undoubtedly aware that the vallorn has been all but eliminated in the West Wood. Some cautious and vigilant individuals suggest that a fortification might need to be built in Liathaven not only to protect the valuable weirwood forest but also to guard against the return of the Jotun. There is even some talk that once the work is complete on the Holt of the Oak there may be merit in discussing the construction of a second wooden fortress on the other side of the Empire - if the Great Forest Orcs could be persuaded to lend their expertise.
As recently discussed, there is a renewed interest among the Navarr about the fact that much of the Empire's bounty of weirwood comes from Navarr territories yet they directly benefit from only a fraction of that wealth. There is little doubt in the minds of most Navarr that Liathaven will be assigned to their nation by the Senate once it is liberated, and some rumbling about the justice of allocating the new weirwood forest to them at the same time. So far, there has only been talk - but with the current Imperial focus on the prosperity of the nations rather than the Empire as a whole it would not take much to ignite this grumbling.