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The Sentinel Gate is a pivotal part of the Empire's military planning - the ability to strike against their enemies at critical locations has been so decisive that it influences the entire way the Imperial Military Council plan and conducts their wars.
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During the Winter Solstice, the Imperial prognosticators have identified three potential opportunities to use a major conjunction to send large numbers of Imperial heroes to locations in the western Empire to fight the Jotun. All three conjunctions take place on Sunday morning; the Imperial Military Council will choose between then, and which nations will be involved, during the muster on Friday evening.

The Freezing North (Battle)

The recent raids against the Jotun's holdings in Skallahn have badly damaged their military strength and secured a raft of benefits. The Kongegőr - the network of hidden routes across the shifting mud flats that connects Narkyst and Kallsea - has been disrupted for now, preventing movement across the Gullet. The Jotun are currently unable to resupply and reinforce their armies until the Spring Equinox. The Empire has an opening to create a spy network in the far west. And the network of Imperial spies and scouts fanning out from Greenwall to provide detailed reports that help to improve the success of any future invasion of Greenwall for the next nine months.

These hammer blows have thwarted the Jotun, enraged Queen Yrsa, and upset the careful plans of the Jarl of Kierheim. As the Winter Solstice approaches a counsel of the jarls has dispatched Eisa Winterborn, the Shield of the Pass, a human yegarra from the west of Kalsea, to smash any resistance in the Greenwall, and root out any Imperial spies. The threat posed by this force imperils the existence of the spy network in Skallahn, as well as removing any military advantages the Empire currently has should armies move over the border from Sermersuaq or Kallavesa.

The Jotun force is accompanied by a host of Autumn heralds, some resembling strange creatures of that realm and others appearing no different to high lineage cambions. Servants of The Forgemistress or The Prince of Shikal. These constructs and heralds are marching with stoic purpose and determination, quite apart from the ferocious advance of the orcs they side with. Among their number are brass-skinned constructs of war, glittering mages in their battle panoply, and champions carrying finely crafted magical weapons and clad in shimmering plate. It appears that following the raid on Steelweaver's Crucible and the rescue of a squirming maggot who had looted the foundry, a lieutenant for the forge - The Blade Quencher - has been dispatched from their work and sent to accompany the orcs into battle.

There is a major conjunction of the Sentinel Gate to Jarlsward on the Sunday of the solstice.

Objective: Delay the Jotun Advance

  • Hold the defences against the Jotun advance, preventing the Jotun breaking through until one hour has passed
  • Delaying the Jotun advance will prevent the Imperial spy network in Skallahn from being exposed and destroyed

Eisa and her forces have been tipped off to the presence of the spy network at Greenwall and are moving decisively to seize the area, capture the Empire's spies and destroy the network. The Imperial spies are preparing to flee but they won't make it in time without help. The Empire has a short window in which they can block the advance of Eisa, her yegarra, and the heralds of Estavus' host.

If the heroes of Anvil can reach Jarlsward then they will be able to make use of an old village palisade as a line on which to marshal their forces. The rotten timber remains could barely be described as a defensive line, or even a fence, but determined warriors may be able to make good use of it to anchor their strength. They will need to deploy rapidly to reach the defences and dress their lines before the enemy arrives.

Once in position, the line will need to be held for an hour until midday. By this time, the spymasters and confidants threatened with obliteration will have been able to retreat. The Jotun know that time is against them, if the Empire can hold them for an hour they will know the observation network has been lost. Eisa will order the Jotun to make an ordered retreat from the field.

Should the Jotun be defeated, then the Skallahn spy network will remain hidden from the Jotun. It will continue to provide an opportunity for military units to gather information on the territory in future, provide tangible benefits for any Imperial armies invading Greenwall (they will need one fewer victory point to take the territory) and enable the Empire to extend their intelligence gathering operations into any territory in Kalsea at a cost of only 5 weirwood for each additional network.

If the Jotun are victorious, or the opportunity is not taken, then the spy network will be destroyed, and any benefits provided will be lost. The Jarl of Keirheim will use the intelligence gained from the compromised network to root out the spy network in Tromsa and destroy that commission before it is even completed.

Objective: Destroy Blade Quencher

  • Destroy Blade Quencher
  • Killing the Estavus herald will prevent the Jotun building a fane on the Empire's borders

Accompanying Eisa is a powerful herald of Estavus named The Blade Quencher, along with a host of lesser heralds and other servants of the Forge Mistress. The Greenwall spy network is located near the Well of Whispers, a strange tunnel complex under Morrox Hill that is notorious for the way you can hear snatches of voices from miles around as you wander through the passages. Blade Quencher is planning to occupy the Well after the spy network is dealt with.

It is impossible to be certain about Blade Quenchers ultimate purpose, but the wells are already being prepared for his arrival with large shipments of white granite and weirwood to the area, that suggests a major construction of some kind. The site isn't suiable for a fortification, you put castles on hills, not under them, so presumably it is something to do with the regio itself. It is likely the Jotun intend to construct a fane of some kind, or at least their equivalent, and that Blade Quencher plans to take up residence there.

The Jotun don't use much powerful magic, but they do negotiate with eternals and obtain powerful boons from them. They have used these fanes in the past to negotiate with the Lion of Summer to field her elfin knights alongside their own soldiers and with the Lady of Frost to receive her aid. The existence of magic like Hammers of Fury demonstrates the kind of aid this powerful Autumn herald might provide. The Well of Whispers is far from the only Autumn regio in Skallahn, so the location of a powerful fane right on the border of Sermersuaq does not bode well. Destroying Blade Quencher would prevent that happening.

The forces of Estavus' host, under the leadership of The Blade Quencher, are well-equipped with magical provisions, enchanted items and armour that makes them significantly stronger than many of the Jotun they are marching with. Whilst they pose an additional threat to those they encounter, there is also the opportunity to recover any magical resources and items they may be in possession of.

The Towering Pines (Battle)

All of Liathaven, from the far western tracks of endless forest to the more frequented eastern glades bordering the Mourn, now lies until Jotun control. The enemy are present here in great number. Among them is Igya Olgafsdottir, daughter of the Jarl of Tromsa, regarded as one of the Jotun's foremost minds when it comes to engineering and siegecraft. Her keen eye, logician's mind, and silver tongue combine well as admirable traits to devise solid redoubts, ascertain a castle's weaknesses, or encourage those under her command to take on hard labour with a keen heart. Despite the loss of the fortress in Tanikipari that still bears her name, her star continues to rise among the Western orcs and there is speculation that she is a future choice for general of the Tower of the North.

Igya has brought her warband to Liavathen, following in the footsteps of the thousands of Jotun that have advanced eastwards through the north of the territory. Wagons bearing blocks of white granite have been seen moving from Hordalaant in the west. Within a day of her arrival the thralls under her command began to throw up earth berms and prepare small barricades to offer basic protection. So swiftly do her underlings toil that within a week of their arrival in Broker's Wynd foundation works have already been prepared, and groundwork laid out for a much larger network of basic wooden defences. Given the supplies en-route, it is clear the Jotun are preparing to lay down the foundations of a fortress under the eaves of Liathaven to consolidate their gains.

A major Jotun fortification in Liaven's Glen bodes poorly for the Empire. It would secure the territory, allowing the Jotun to move forces through the woods without fear of attacks by the vallorn or the Feni. It could act as a springboard for a potential attack into the Mournwold or Kahraman. Even if the Jotun didn't intend to invade from there, raiders could steal over the border to threaten the important mines and quarries in Northern Kahraman. Of course it would take a great deal of time to build a fortification, but it appears that Igya has a plan to deal with that too...

There is a major conjunction that leads to the Broker's Wynd in Liaven's Glen, Liathaven on the Sunday of the Winter Solstice.

Objective: Destroy the Stockades

  • Destroy the stockades under construction in Broker's Wynd
  • Each stockade destroyed will delay construction of the fortification by one season
  • Destroying all three within quick succession will allow Jaheris to attack the Jotun in Liavathan

Shortly before the summit, representatives of the Moonsilver Prince approach the Empire. They claim that their patron's rival, the Mistress of Blizzards is aiding the Jotun, and has provided Igya with three great keystones, which will allow her to construct her new fortification with astonishing speed. They claim that the Unicorn Prince wishes to see the Empire triumph over the Jotun, and thus he offers this information in the spirit of cooperation and friendship.

Reports confirm that the principal foundation work consists of three stockades erected around white granite keystones put in place by the workforce. These foundations bear similarities to Olgafsdottirhal where they are crucial to the sound building of that monstrous fortification, however they are clearly magical in nature, bearing the touch of The Immovable One. Unless something is done, Igya will be able to complete her new fortification with terrifying speed.

By utilising the conjunction to Broker's Wynd, the Empire could strike against Igya. A ritual casting of either Rising Roots that Rend Stone or Inevitable Collapse into Ruin would be sufficient to destroy a keystone, preventing Igya from incorporating it into the completed fortification. The prognosticators calculate that with Cathan Canae's help, the fortification will be complete in a single season. Each keystone which is destroyed will delay the completion by one extra season - if all three are annihilated then the fortification will have to completed at a normal rate, meaning it will not be completed until the end of the year.

Furthermore the heralds of the Lord of the Forest of Arden say that if the magic in each of the keystones can be sundered within thirty minutes of each other, that is if the last ritual is completed within thirty minutes of the first, then their Prince will be able to use the arcane energies unleashed to attack the Jotun. If that happens, if all three are destroyed together, then the Lord of Despite will be able to unleash an army of wild creatures of the forest into the woods of Liavathen. They will attack any Jotun armies trying to billet there, causing casualties and preventing them resting or resupplying for the next year. This would make it much harder for the Jotun to attack the Empire from Liavathen.

Such a feat would be incredibly difficult, the three keystones are spread over a wide area, so it would be hard to destroy them all, let alone to coordinate the rituals in such a way. It is not clear if the Empire can manage such a feat, either magically or logistically. However the Moonsilver Prince stands ready to aid the Empire if they wish to make the attempt.

Objective: Make use of Broker's Wynd

  • There is a strong Spring region in the area
  • The Empire could use the regio to cast powerful Spring rituals on Liathaven
  • Surut has offered to destroy the regio and the surrounding forest if the Empire grant him dominion over the regio

There is a strong Spring regio in the area nearby, called the Circle of Unending Growth. If this locus can be located, then it can be used by the Empire to draw the power of the Spring Realm into Liathaven, spreading magic across the territory in ways not possible from Anvil. There are a number of powerful rituals that could be cast here that are not possible at Anvil such as The Dance of Navarr and Thorn. The longer the Empire could hold the regio, the more rituals they could cast.

By sheer good fortune, or much more likely a twist of fate, there is a conjunction to Kay's Lament on the Friday evening of the solstice. A pair of Navarri vates discovered an ancient artefact whilst in the depths of the Vallorn heart, but perished before they could return. Reports indicate that this item is linked to a Terunael version of Thunderous Tread, and possesses sufficient power to reduce the magnitude, making casting the ritual much easier to undertake.

Thunderous Tread of the Trees is a powerful Spring curse that would disrupt the Jotun forces across the territory - it is as not as powerful or as selective as the aid offered by the Moonprince, but some of the effects are similar. The curse would attack every army and fortification present in Liathaven for a year. However the effects would not be selected, any Imperial force present would also be harmed, whereas the Moonprince assures the Empire that his forces will attack only the Jotun. In theory there is no reason why both effects could not be in place at the same time, the Empire could curse the territory with Spring magic and the Moonprince's forces could harry the Jotun at every turn.

Finally, heralds of Surut of the Thrice-cursed Court have approached the Navarr egregore. The burned warriors, clad in scorched plate and the remnants of singed tabards, come with a request from their liege. Surut has once again extended his offer to cleanse a region of Liathaven with his power. The emissaries ask that once the Navarr have completed their own agenda in Broker's Wynd, the spring regio should be gifted to Surut. A short ceremony and pronouncement granting dominion to the Burnt Steward would suffice. If that happens he will unleash a deep ruby red incandescence on the forests of Liaven's Glen, burning the region in magical flames.

Following this action, the region would gain the Burnt quality, leaving little there but thick grey ash.

Objective: Kill Igya Olgafsdottir

  • Kill Igya Olgafsdottir and her skilled band of artisan warriors

As well as being a capable warrior, Igya Olgafsdottir is the Jotun's most skilled architect, known by the Empire for her work creating vast fortifications in Sermersuaq. Although the Empire was able to capture these monuments, there is no doubt that Igya and the artisans and crafts people who march with her are a potent threat.

She is here overseeing the works at Brokey's Wynd providing the Empire with an opportunity to kill her, if she can be found during the battle. Given her high standing in the Jotun, there is no doubt that the jarls on the field will do what they can to ensure she is well protected, and kept away from the front lines.

The boons that Cathan Canae has provided have been given to Igya personally - not the Jotun. Killing this favourite of the Mistress of Blizzards would render the magic of the stones null and void. The fortification could still be built, the Jotun have many skilled architects and builders, but it would take a year like any normal commission. What is more without Igya's skill and vision, the Jotun won't benefit from any further opportunities to exceed the normal limits of fortification construction for at least a year.

Gift of the forest (Conjunction)

  • Gwendolyn Sixthstep uncovered the location of a potent boon in Brocéliande
  • There is at least one massive vallorn monstrosity in the area
  • The Knight-Protector of Spring is responsible for recovering the Tairiscint na Foraoise

Gwendolyn Sixthstep and her brother Thadwen, was part of the recent expedition into Brocéliande. After being split up from the rest of her striding she found herself in a place of relative quiet amongst the chaos of the vallorn. There, with help from her brother, she was able to cast Clear Lens of the Eternal River and uncover that this place of relative quiet was where Spring ritualists carrying a potent boon had fallen shortly after fleeing the fall of Terunael. The presence of the siblings drew all manner of vallornspawn and Thadwen fell whilst fleeing. Gwendolyn was able to meet back with the rest of the expedition and relay the information, of Kay's Lament, and the potent boon that awaits there.

The potent boon, "Tairiscint na Foraoise", is apparently similar to the Pearls of Manush granted to the Polemarch of Highwatch by Zakalwe. It can be consumed to greatly increase the amount of power a Spring ritualist can contribute to a casting of Thunderous Tread of the Trees.

There will be a stiff resistance from vallornspawn here; husks and other creatures that make their home deep in the fecund miasma. Given that this represents a significant danger relating to the realm of Spring the responsibility for this conjunction lies with the Knight-Protecter of Spring: Jasper Hunter scion De Beaumont

The Encroaching Wetlands (Battle)

Bregasland teeters under the control of Mathilda Fisher, who is slowly securing the wetlands and scattered farmsteads with the help of her Jotun allies. Hidden among the invaders - often in plain sight - the Strong Reeds and House Greywater work tirelessly on acts of sabotage, vandalism and espionage. Information and details on the Fisher's leaders has been surprisingly easy - if risky - to obtain.

Thus news soon arrives that Mathilda and her Jotun allies are commencing work east of Ottery along the Otterway or Odd's Way. Warriors and thralls alike have spent recent weeks strengthening the causeway, widening bridges, packing soil sacks, and expanding the road all along the route to the border with Mitwold. What was once a simple raised track and driveway wide enough to accommodate four heads of cattle or two passing wagons is now being made capable of allowing twenty soldiers to move abreast with good speed. A provincial route, and vital economic link to Oddmire, is being turned into a critical piece of military infrastructure.

Completing this work would make it easier for their armies to move to the Mitwold border, pour into Oddmire and lay claim to Odd's End. Once complete, the region would be considered under threat from the Jotun. This would enable the orcs to invade Mitwold more swiftly making it easier for them to capture territory there. To make matters more troubling, there is no simple way to prevent construction work along the entire length of the route - it is simply too extensive and passes through many areas of otherwise impassable fenland.

Old 'Shel Sykes is a name many locals of Ottermire know and detest; the man is known as a surly and unkind soul, quick to anger and quicker to spit vitriol at those who cross his path. Children joke and ascribe all manner of mischief to him - from throwing stones through windows and leaving meadow gates open, to drowning cats in sacks and souring the tavern's cider with unsavoury Winter magicks. Despite his reputation, the man is ascribed some respect when it comes to the drains, mires, and sluices east of Ottery. His family line goes far back into the distant past of the territory, and it is said the dark waters of the fenlands runs in his veins. It is for this reason that Mathilda Fisher has sought out his expertise, and 'Shel has thrown in his lot with 'the old cousins'.

There is a major conjunction that will lead to Sot's 'Ole in Ottermire on the Sunday of the Winter Solstice.

Objective: Rouse Old Marjoram

  • Use rough music to rouse the ancient Marshwalker of Sot's Ole
  • Success will prevent the Jotun moving armies along the causeway into Mitwold

Local folklore tells tale that Sot's 'Ole was the deepest darkest parts of the Bregas marshes when the first Marchers arrived here from Dawn. The area was plagued by marshlings and many of the first villages were obliterated when massive marshwalkers colonies formed in the area. It wasn't until the end of the first century of the Empire that their threat was diminished and the area could thrive following successive campaigns to reduce the colonies. The creatures still inhabit the dank fens to this day, but they have been long quiescent - rumoured to have happened following a ritual conducted by the Kallavesi during the reign of Empress Teleri.

Lil' Sykes, a scion of Old 'Shel, and a loyal citizen of the Empire has been in contact with House Greywater, revealing the treason of her relative and suggesting a plan to thwart the Jotun that have invaded her home. She has offered to lead her 'real Marcher family' to an area where marshlings are still known to inhabit. This area was once threatened by a monstrous Marshwalker that was known as Old Marjoram in local legend. Lil' Sykes speaks of how the Bregasfolk of the area has long held against the otherwise common Marcher tradition of rough music. According to tales past down to her from her grandmammy that "no wise head from Sot should go out banging their pans or rattling a rake lest Old Marj return".

The prognosticators confirm that if the Empire could get to Sot's 'Ole and make enough rough music, then the scattered remnants of the marshwalker colonies would be roused, Old Marjoram would reform and begin to reap mayhem and destruction against the causeway. Everyone will need to pull back once that happens, as a Marshwalker will attack anyone nearby. But the causeway will be quickly destroyed by the assault, and the Jotun would be forced to make other plans to attack Mitwold.

Rousing Old Marj' may create problems for the future - the creature is likely to become quiescent again eventually - but it could take some persuading to go back to sleep. But it will be a significant nuisance for whoever is running Bregasland until it does and it will certainly be enough to put paid to the causeway.

Objective: Arrest Bushel Sykes

  • Capture Bushel Sykes, and bring him back to Anvil to face justice
  • Bushel and his fellow Beaters can be found near the Oathstone, a small consecrated shrine
  • If this traitor is brought to Anvil then it will send a clear message to those considering siding with Mathilda Fisher

As a collaborator with the Jotun, 'Shel poses a threat to the Empire's war goals; but he is also a traitor in the eyes of many Marchers. Him and a few of his fellow beaters will be found near the Oathstone, a local spot that is kept consecrated by Bushel and his household. The Sykes considers the area to be their land, so he won't be easily persuaded to move from there even in the face of an incipient attack.

For all his treachery, 'Shel is still a Marcher, so he could be incapacitated and brought back through the Sentinel Gate to face justice. If that happens, if he is caught and every Marcher knows he was strung up for his crimes, then it will send a clear message to everyone in Bregasland who is on the fence about siding with the Fishers. It won't undo the damage that has already been done, but giving this turncoat his just deserts would stop the rot for a season or two.

If he can't be captured, then killing him on the battlefield might be the next best thing, but a death in battle won't have the same impact as a trial and an execution. It would still be useful however - the old poacher has more than half a centuries knowledge of the marshes, he knows the Eastern half of Bregasland like the back of his hand. Without 'Shel, the Jotun and the Fishers would be denied wise counsel in matters relating to the marshes of Bregasland, making it harder for them to exploit the terrain in the coming seasons.