In the history of the Empire, two Dawnish armies have borne the name and banner of the Gryphon's Pride. The first was founded in 51YE, and tragically lost during a doomed attempt to capture the Barrens in 276YE. In 378YE, the Imperial Senate commissioned the restoration of the army, a task that was completed shortly before the Spring Equinox 380YE.
Today, the fourth Dawnish general leads the Gryphon's Pride army, and is appointed (or re-appointed) at the Spring equinox each year.
The original Gryphon's Pride was raised to support the Golden Sun and the Hounds of Glory in the conquest of Semmerholm. Under the guidance of General Benedick de Padia, the army distinguished itself against the orcs, and were instrumental in breaking the siege of Ulvenholme. Once Semmerholm was secure, General Benedick agitated in the Imperial Military Council for permission to continue into Holberg and the Barrens. Unfortunately, with Imperial forces committed to drawn-out campaigns in Urizen, Highguard, the Brass Coast and the Marches, the Dawnish generals were unable to secure support for further expansion.
Eight decades later, when the Empire underwent a period of expansion during the reign of Empress Varkula, it was General Beatrice Coyne who lead the glorious charge into Holberg. Following the controversial end to that campaign, general Beatrice vowed that the Gryphon's Pride would never fight alongside an army of League soldiers again - a vow that ultimately saw her revoked from her position. She disappeared in the Mallum shortly afterwards along with several of her house, wearing the blue-and-gold surcote of the questing knight. While the senators of Dawn denied any lingering resentment, the Gryphon's Pride did not fight in a campaign alongside League armies for the next twenty years.
Although the generals of the Gryphon's Pride have traditionally supported the expansion of the Empire, and of Dawn in particular, they have also played an important role in preserving its borders. When the eastern orcs launched a surprise attack against Dawnguard in 206YE, the Gryphon's Pride defended the Dawnish settlements there for three months, single-handedly holding the line against an estimated fifteen thousand barbarian warriors. The army was severely depleted, but thanks to their heroism, and the foresight of general Claudio Aurelius the orcs were held at bay long enough for the Black Thorns and the Hounds of Glory to reinforce the Towers of the Dawn and halt the barbarians' advance.
The last general of the Gryphon's Pride before their destruction is a somewhat controversial figure. A capable warrior, she was regularly appointed as Field Marshal during expeditions through the Sentinel Gate, and her followers bragged that no force lead by Berena had ever been defeated - whether through the Gate or in the wider campaign.
While contemporary accounts suggest she was respected, idolised even by some nobles, she was not without her flaws. Impetuous, and given to overconfidence, some military historians have argued that her victories were often secured at great cost. While she prospered during the reign of Empress Brannan, her devil-may-care attitudes were a poor fit for the Empire under the guidance of Emperor James.
While it was not widely discussed, some stories suggest that Berena did not die at the hands of the Druj, but rather as the result of some hitherto unrevealed curse or illness. Obviously eyewitness accounts of her death are hard to come by and unreliable, but some historians point to stories of her dying of a broken heart at the height of an engagement against the Druj. Denied their inspirational leader, the soldiers of the Gryphon's Pride refused to quit the field; instead they followed her final order to engage the orcs and allow the other Imperial forces to withdraw to the safety of Drycastle. Glorious to the last, the knights and yeofolk fell as much in service to their legendary general as to secure the survival of the other armies.
Attempts were made to recognise Berena as an Exemplar of various virtues, but the Synod rejected each one. Cardinal Leonato de Sarvos of the Assembly of Courage put the final nail in her coffin with a statement of principle before the General Assembly in which the Synod of the time denounced acts of "foolish vainglory" as being unvirtuous.Since the destruction of the Pride, questing knights have spend the better part of a century scouring the Barrens for relics of the army and its captains. Berena de Lyongate's golden armour, and the last war-standard of the Gryphon's Pride, were both recovered in 378YE following clues revealed in the past life vision of a Wintermark hero, Horsa Tyrshalt. The golden armour came into the possession of Vincent Vexille, then leading the Eastern Sky, creating some controversy as supporters of the Gryphon's Pride believed the relic should be surrendered to that army's general.
Several other relics of this particularly tragic episode in the history of Dawn remain unaccounted for.
Fall of the Pride
During her short reign Empress Brannan reputedly agreed to support the people of Dawn in finally achieving their long-held ambition to conquer the Barrens. While there are no records of Empress Brennan making such a promise in any formal capacity, it certainly seems plausible that she did so. Unfortunately, when Emperor James succeeded her he persuaded the Senate to fix the borders of the Empire, preventing any further "military adventurism". Many Dawnish saw this "reversal" as a betrayal and a deliberate snub by the Marcher Throne. Isolated in the Imperial Senate and the Military Council alike under the rule of a defensively-minded Marcher and his supporters, the generals and senators of Dawn nonetheless continued to agitate for expansion of the Empire's borders. They were not without supporters from other nations, who were likewise concerned about the decision to fix the borders, but only the people of Dawn were prepared to openly question James' policies.
Eventually, in 276YE, Dawnish generals conceived a plan to invade the Barrens without the explicit authorisation of the Military Council. The idea was to present the attack as a fait accompli in the expectation that once war with the barbarians was joined, the need to ensure victory and prevent a catastrophic defeat would force the Council to back the invasion. Even if this didn't happen, the Dawnish believed that those Highborn and Varushkan generals and senators who had publicly opposed Emperor James would be sufficiently sympathetic to the cause to commit their own armies to the campaign to take the Barrens. As the senator for Astolat, Margueritte de Rondell, is quoted as saying "The chance for glory will call our allies to our side; fear of defeat will still the tongues of those who have no Courage."'
Knowing that the odds would be against them, they turned to their finest general, the relatively young Berena de Lyongate. Having spent years fighting barbarian orcs, she was well respected as the very example of a glorious Dawnish general - bold, clever, and possessed of a commanding presence. More importantly she was known to be utterly committed to the cause of conquering the Barrens. There is an apocryphal tale that some years earlier she had petitioned the Earl of House Vexille for a Test of Ardour, hoping to wed one of his bold knights. In response the earl had challenged the young general to conquer the Barrens for Dawn to prove she was worthy. Despite the apparent impossibility of the test, Berena had never wavered in her public commitment to achieve it and leapt at the opportunity to finally accomplish her dreams.
Unfortunately, the Druj barbarians were waiting for the Imperial forces. The orcs gave no sign that they were aware of the Dawnish armies, allowing them to push east and south from the relative safety of Dawnguard before springing their trap. Overextended, and unprepared for the sheer size of the forces brought to bear against them, the Dawnish armies were cut off - surrounded by savage foes. The Gryphon's Pride voluntarily led a desperate rearguard action to allow the Hounds of Glory and the Golden Sun to withdraw, but this ensured the near-total destruction of the heroic army, as well as the death of General Berenna and many of the leading lights of her noble house. Some of those few of Berena's soldiers who managed to survive the battle - or their children - would later form the core of the new army of the Eastern Sky.
Those senators and generals who had supported the Dawnish push into the Barrens were quick to distance themselves from the disaster. The Senate publicly accepted the fiction that Berena bore most of the blame both for the attack and the defeat, but both General Atticus de Gauvain of the Hounds of Glory and General Sibylla Aurelius of the Golden Sun resigned their titles in disgrace. Far from challenging Emperor James' defensive strategy, the misadventure strengthened his position and became a cautionary tale for the next forty years.
A new army celebrating the legacy of the Gryphon's Pride was discussed for many years. While that legacy ended in tragedy, for several centuries the Pride represented glorious aspiration for many nobles and yeofolk. When the Imperial Senate finally commissioned a fourth Dawnish army in Spring 379YE, under the auspices of Senator Valentin of House Orzel, those noble houses who still honoured the stories of the Gryphon's Pride quickly proposed it should renew that legacy. House Lionsgate rallied several other minor houses including the Coyne's of Dawnguard and House Helios of Astolat to contribute resources and support to the new army on the understanding that the Gryphon's Pride would rise again.
In Spring 380YE, the army was complete. The first general of the Gryphon's Pride was Soldier Akella, appointed following his victory in a tourney held by the senators of Dawn to choose the most glorious candidate for the position. Tragically, the new general served for only a few months, before being slain by Jotun warriors. Subsequent generals have been appointed by the Senators following the traditional method.
The new army was almost immediately deployed to support the conquest of the Barrens. After numerous victories against the indigenous Barrens orcs, they helped consolidate Imperial gains in the Carmine Fields and Murderdale before being called to withdraw as part of a short-lived peace treaty with the Druj that saw recent gains by the armies of Dawn surrendered to the eastern barbarians. Within a few short months, Dawnguard itself had fallen to the treachery of the Druj, and the invasion of Semmerholm had begun. Along with the other three armies of Dawn, the Gryphon's Pride under General Garravaine de Rondell met the Druj advance, and drove them back into the Barrens.
The history of the Gryphon's Pride has been one of conquest, and when the generals of Dawn decided to take the battle to the Druj via the Golden Causeway, the Gryphon's Pride lead the charge into Ossium. They fought bitterly through the campaign, including the vicious battle that lead to the capture of the Tower of the Scorpion, and ultimately helped secure victory alongside the other armies of Dawn and their Thule and Varushkan allies.
As a new army, barely five years old, the Gryphon's Pride has few established traditions. Obviously the nobles from those houses who were once prominent supporters are keen to see old traditions return, but as yet they have failed to achieve universal support. There was some expectation that the generalship of the army might continue to be decided by a Grand Tourney (for all that the legal power rests with the Dawnish senators), this has proved not to be the case.
One tradition that House Lionsgate and the others are particularly keen to see resurrected is that surrounding the army's warbanner. The original standard of the Gryphon's Pride was created by a weaver cabal called the "Five Silver Needles". The standard was replaced each year; it became a point of pride for the weavers to create a beautiful and inspiring magic banner to be carried into battle by the soldiers of the courageous army. The banners were never reforged; once the magic was gone, the standard was gifted by the general of the Gryphon's Pride to the a chosen champion. Often, the bequest was made posthumously; the flag often served as a burial shroud. According to legend, every general of the Gryphon's Pride until Berena was buried wrapped in one of these standards. When a new army took up the legacy of the Gryphon's Pride, the Five Silver Needles agreed to once again provide new standards. So far only one standard has been provided - in 380YE. It is not clear why the banner was not replaced.
While the army was raised in Semmerholm, almost every noble house in Dawn provided stout yeofolk, noble knights, and war witches to take up arms under the banners of Dawn. In particular, many knights descended from the soldiers of the first army rallied to the new gryphon banner, including almost the entire fighting force of House Lionsgate. While the Hounds of Glory continue the glorious legacy of the original Pride, the new army has been built with the clear intent of conquering new territory for the Empire.
Some of those who have joined the army in the last few years have adopted the symbol of a lion or an eagle, adding the device to their shield, apparel, or in some cases personal heraldry. This marks a resurgence of a tradition that harks back to the founding of the first army under the leadership of General Benedick. At that time it was commonly accepted that the new army would be best served by a close relationship with the Eternals of Summer - but no agreement on which eternal should be regarded as the most valuable ally. Opinion slowly coalesced around two choices, Eleonaris, the Queen of the Fields of Glory or Cathan Canae, the Queen of Ice and Darkness, but neither group was able to persuade Benedick to favour their respective Queen. Rather than choose between them, Benedick ordered each group to compete for the favour of their patron claiming that the army could still gain from boons from either eternal provided individual members were not so foolish as to try and gain the patronage of both at the same time.
Following Benedick's decision, those in the army who sought to win boons from Eleonaris were referred to as the Lions of Glory. Those who sought glory in the name of Cathan Canae were called the Winter Eagles. With the return of the Gryphon's Pride, some modern supporters of the army are again wearing a symbol of their allegiance openly, in the hope of increasing their chances of catching the eternal's eye and thus winning their support for the Gryphon's Pride and for Dawn. The symbol might be discreet, a single motif embroidered on a surcoat, but it is often assumed that the more ostentatious the better - the eternals of Summer are many things but they are rarely subtle.
Anyone can choose to mark themselves as a Lion of Glory or a Winter Eagle, but most of those who do so are war witches, martially inclined Enchanters, or questing knights. Witches and enchanters have more reason than most, even most Dawnish, to court the Summer eternals. Questing knights by contrast often seem to draw the interest of the inhabitants of the Summer realm, regardless of their intentions. There exists something of a rivalry between the two groups with each competing to win boons and favours from their eternal and thus prove that their patron is the better ally of Dawn. Of course in Dawn competition of this kind is not confined to the Gryphon's Pride, and some famous Lions and Eagles have continued their devotion long after they leave the army. But Benedicks' wisdom has been proven many times over the years - and not just in regard to the Gryphon's Pride - as the existence of the two rival groups has allowed the army to enjoy the favour of the two most jealous of eternals, occasionally at the same time.
Army Quality : Conquering
The Gryphon's Pride focuses on capturing territory, driving the defenders of the land before them. Where their earlier incarnation was more concerned with matters of glory, today the Gryphon's Pride much more closely represents Dawnish ambitions in the Barrens - perhaps even in the Mallum as a whole.
With the appropriate orders, the general of the Gryphon's Pride can instruct their soldiers to dominate key strategic objectives, claiming territory from any opposing force. This significantly increases the rate at which they claim regions, allowing the Empire to claim the entire territory more quickly. On the other hand, their emphasis on strategic control of objectives means that they are more likely to drive opposing forces away than destroy them - reducing the number of enemy casualties during the campaign.
|Spring Equinox 383YE||Garravaine De Rondell|
|Spring Equinox 382YE||Garravaine De Rondell|
|Spring Equinox 381YE||Garravaine De Rondell|
|Spring Equinox 380YE||Soldier Akella|
This title is currently held by Garravaine De Rondell; it will be reelected at Spring Equinox 384YE. The table to the right shows the citizens who have been elected to hold the title of General of the Gryphon's Pride in the years since Empress Britta died.