Unleashing the storm
"So there we were," he said. "Three of us facing down against a spined drake, with only short blades and small shields. The others were panicking but I wasn't going to let all our training go for naught. I grabbed the other two, shook them, shouted in their faces, got them to focus. It was a big bastard, but there was only one of it. As long as we kept an eye on the tail we could flank it just like any other solo opponent."
"I sent the human feinting left, and Throm right, and I kept the beast focused on me by beating my shield. They're vicious but they're thick, spined drakes."
"Sure enough it comes forward ignoring Throm and the human. It arches that nasty tail of its over its head and it strikes forward but I'm ready for it! I roll an throw the shield in its face and then..."
The old orc brought his trident-hand up, and mimed sweeping with it.
"Then I grabbed it. Grabbed the tail. Set my feet and hauled away like I was raising a main sail. The crowd... well the crowd went wild. It was... Thousands of them roaring at once. It was like a wall of sound like being in the middle of a thunderstorm. It was..."
He shook his head.
"It was incredible. I couldn't keep it up but I didn't need to. The beast went wild, trying to pull away. That was all the human and Throm needed. They were in on the sides, in on the belly, with their little blades. Dropped their own shields, two-handed butchery on the exposed parts. The drake got free of me - my hand was ruined torn apart by the spines - but it was all over bar the shouting. We'd won, and whatever the politics behind that little bit of attempted murder were we were feted like kings that night."
He looked off into the distance speculatively. "I never saw the human again. I was bought three days later by some minor Grendel. Outfitted me with this and took me to Vorlach with her. I heard Throm died six weeks later in some bullshit melee. Without me watching his back..."
The old orc sighed and shrugged. Bakka caught the eye of the paradour master and another pair of mugs appeared on the table between them. The old orc jabbed his trident into the roast fish, and ate some in silence.
"I'll tell you something though," he said. "They cheered us but if they knew... oh if they knew how much we hated them... they'd not have been cheering they'd have been running for their lives the whole lot of them."
He licked fish juice from his moustache, gazing off into the distance and into the past.
"It's good story that," said Brakka. "And you know what's really interesting is that's the second story about the coliseum of Beoraidh I've heard today."
The orc reaver gestured across the bustling room to where a sturdy orc woman was regaling a table of corsairs with a tale of her own."You two should meet, I think." said Brakka. "And there's quite a few other people who might want to meet the pair of you, I reckon. Yes indeed."
Following the Autumn Equinox, the Empire sacked Dubhtraig, firing parts of the city, looting wealth from the inhabitants and rescuing what slaves they could reach. The expedition was a triumph, one that folks will boast about for centuries. Arguably the feat rivals that of the greatest achievements of the Empire in recorded history. Fights have already broken out in Freeborn paradors between those who claim the deed equals Erigo's daring attack on Trivento which led to the creation of the modern day Brass Coast and those from other tribes who think it surpasses it. It has lifted the spirits and fired the imagination - if the Empire can achieve this - what else can they achieve?
Obviously after such a difficult excursion, the Empire will need time to recover. Sails will need to be patched, ropes replaced, and hulls patched and waterproofed. Soldiers will need time to repair armour and nurse their wounds back to health. Supplies need to be replenished, people need to rest and recover. It would be absolutely crazy to attempt another raid against the Grendel any time soon. And that - taking time to recover - is exactly what the Grendel will expect the Empire to do.
Of course Dubhtraig will be on high alert - and will remain so for some time. Rumour has it that Salt Lady Suriad has fallen - slain by an Imperial champion during the attack on her palace, or dragged down by the sharks of her own court in the wake of the raid. But there will be salt lords to replace her and doubtless they are already laying plans to fortify the city. The Empire has proved that Dubhtraig is vulnerable; it's a sure bet that the Salt Lords will pull their forces back to protect the jewel in their crown. Any attempt to repeat the triumph of last season would be suicide. Plus, as more than one corsair opines "we've done that already..."
No - the Empire can't attack Dubhtraig again. What they need is a plum target as far away from Dubhtraig as you get...like Maraeve.
Maraeve is the name of the territory to the south of Spiral. The Empire has some knowledge of the land gained from their efforts to map the bay as well as diplomatic exchanges with the Axou. What information they do have is patchy and limited in scope, but no more so than their recognizance of Dubhtraig. At first glance there isn't anything of interest or value in Maraeve, but fortune smiled on the Empire during the recent raid. A pair of slaves recovered from the docks were both badly maimed, with the kind of wounds that you can only get from fighting. One had only one hand and the other will walk with a limp for the rest of her days. There was nothing noteworthy in that particularly, but the story of how they came by their wounds was fascinating.
Apparently the pair were once gladiators fighting in the coliseum at Beoraidh in Maraeve. The port is poor, the whole settlement is slowly sliding into the sea, so there is little wealth to be had here. Nothing on the face of it that would make the port a good target for a raid, except for this great arena. Both orcs provide credible eye witness statements that the coliseum is the centre for slave trading for the entire territory, with literally hundreds of slaves bought and sold there every week. By all accounts it is probably a rival for Dubhtraig or Vorlach in that regard, at least in terms of the number of slaves held there, but it has none of the protections the port possesses.
The majority of the slaves sold in the ampitheatre are poor souls destined for the mithril mines of Fundindelf - but the structure is much more than just a crude slave market. Once a month, the arena is filled by thousands of Grendel who come to watch regular displays of gladiatorial fighting between the trained slaves kept there. Furthermore the Salt Lords apparently often raise armies here, using the hundreds and hundreds of fighting slaves kept at the arena to drill and train fresh troops. In addition to these skilled fighters there are hundreds more being trained at any given time, all hand-picked for their physical prowess, aggressive personality, and confidence in battle.
If it was just the word of a pair of slaves rescued from Dubhtraig, people might question it and pass on the opportunity. But as luck would have it, just as a pair of Freeborn Corsairs were looking into the matter, they happened to come across an Axou captain who had been forced to pull in at Siroc when his vessel had unexpectedly sprung a leak. It turned out he was a regular trader with the Grendel, selling them white granite for mithril, and he provided two crucial pieces of information. First, he confirmed what the orcs had already said, that there is an entire army of slaves at Beoraidh, most of whom hate the Grendel even more than the Empire. And secondly that all that white granite he and the Asaveans had been selling the Grendel was being put to good use building a fortification to protect the port... but crucially it would be one more season before it was finished.
It all seems almost too fortunate, as if someone, somewhere, was trying to tip the scales. And indeed it turns out that there is.
The Regent of the Eternal Sea
Queen Rhianos, Regent of the Eternal Sea, Caliph of the Endless Skies, Mistress of Adventures, Sworn Enemy of Siakha, and apparently a great friend of the Empire has not been shy about her involvement in this exciting new plan. The two orcs that the Empire rescued from the dockside at Dubhtraig were not due to be working that day - but their shift was changed at the last minute when two of their less fortunate colleagues came down with a very unlucky case of food poisoning after an odd looking orc with a long rounded nose was chased out of the kitchens. And the poor Axou captain who had to put into port at Siroc swears blind that his ship was attacked by dolphins who slapped it with their tail flukes until they damaged all the caulking on the vessel and forced him to port.
Excited heralds are only to happy to confirm their mistress' part in all this - and the invitation of the Archmage of Summer that convinced her to put a gentle hand on the tiller of events. The Mistress of Adventures is overjoyed at the triumph of the Empire and hopes that the daring raid will inspire everyone involved in the conflict to attempt even more daring escapades. She is apparently more fond of action than talk, so rather than listen to the Summar Archmage ask for help, she thought she'd just cut straight to the chase and do something to help the Empire. Hence her heralds have identified Beoraidh as a wonderful target for an adventure and have done just enough to make the Empire aware of the possibilities.
However the Caliph of the Endless Skies wishes to do more for her fellow corsairs! As such she has lent all her considerable power to support her favourite Imperial ritual Golden Voyage.
For the duration of the coming season, any ritualist who calls on the Mistress of Adventures to enchant one or more captains will receive the help of the eternal provided that their targets promise to sail forth and attack Beoraidh in pursuit of adventure. If they do so, then the magnitude of the ritual will be reduced by 2 (to 16) and the magnitude to include additional targets will be reduced by 4 (to 10).
Her heralds warn however that nobody should seek to take advantage of their Queen's power unless they intend to carry out the daring raid. It would be a foolish captain indeed who risked upsetting Rhianos. Legend claims (actually it's more the eternal's heralds claim than actual legends) that those captains who anger her find out why she is called the Regent of the Eternal Sea...
|Up to 10,000||With up to 10,000 points of effective strength, the Empire would be able to breach the outer defences of Beoraidh. The port could be looted and while that would not produce any loot of significance, it would allow the Empire to free up to 1,000 slaves. It would be another blow to the confidence of the Grendel, and damage the economy of Maraeve including the pits at Fundindelf for at least a year|
|Up to 15,000||With up to 15,000 points of effective strength, the Empire could do everything above, including rescusing up to 1,500 slaves. In addition they could damge the new fortification being built, delaying completition by two seasons.|
|Up to 20,000||With up to 20,000 points of effective strength, the Empire could do everything above, rescuring up to 2,000 slaves, completely destroying the fortification being built forcing the Grendel to begin again, and destroying the coliseum, preventing the Grendel raising an army from the territory of Maraeve until it is rebuilt|
|Over 20,000||With over 20,000 or more effective strength, the Empire could destroy the fortification and the colliseum, rescue over 2,000 slaves the bulk of which would be experienced fighting orcs. If they joined the Imperial Orcs, this would be enough to allow the Imperial Orcs to raise a third army, if they also had a second suitable territory to support them.|
The civil service have assessed the potential for a raid on Beoraidh and identified a number of important possibilities. The first is that this raid will produce very little in the way of wealth. By all accounts this is a frontier city with none of the ostentatious wealth that is on show in Dubhtraig. There is money here - for certain - but it's not the kind of wealth that you can easily carry away in a raid. That means that neither fleets nor military units that are allocated to raid Beoraidh are likely to produce even a fraction of the wealth obtained in the sack of Dubtraig. Instead, any raid will inevitably be focused on freeing slaves - for that is the wealth that the town possesses in great abundance. By all accounts, there are more people in chains in Beoraidh than without them.
Fortunately the port is not nearly as well protected as the Grendel capital, but it is still a difficult target, especially with those half finished defences. The defences themselves represent the first obvious target. They are not complete yet, and won't be for another season. That means there is a single narrow window of opportunity to attack the port before it becomes impregnable against a raid of this kind. Of course such a fortification would not only protect Boerath, it will help the Grendel to defend the entirety of territory of Maraeve and that means they can afford to release more armies to go north to attack the Empire in Spiral - or wherever the Grendel armada might choose to transport them. The completion of the fortification is not likely to signal an immediate attack, but it will hasten the day the next attack comes.
Assuming it gets completed. If a large enough force attacked the port, they could destroy the fortification before it was complete. It's not possible to carry off the White Granite sadly, it's just too heavy for that, but all the supporting timbers could be burned out and the structure collapsed and ruined. If the Empire committed to the attack, then the fortification would be leveled, and the Grendel would have to begin over, a task that would take at least a year, assuming they had fresh supplies of White Granite available.
The second target is the arena itself. This large structure is just outside the bounds of the port and will be more difficult to reach, but with sufficient vessels and soldiers, the Empire could seize the building and destroy it. The arena is effectively a giant training ground for Grendel soldiers - without it it would become impossible for the Grendel to raise an army in Maraeve. They likely could raise one in another territory - but the arena exists for a reason - without it they could not raise a force here. The details of how the Grendel raise armies are not well known to the Empire, but the loss of the arena would definitely hamper Grendel recruitment, badly needed since their armies were consumed by the madness of the Black Plateau.
The most important - and most difficult target - are the various slave camps that are dotted around the arena. It will take a significant force of soldiers to spy these camps out, and they will be defended. You can't keep highly trained gladiatorial slaves in chains without taking some very effective precautions to ensure they don't turn on you. Any successful raid on Beoraidh will result in the rescue of potentially thousands of slaves, but if the Empire commits enough ships and soldiers then they can rescue hundreds of skilled gladiators and pit-fighters, and thousands of raw recruits held in the scores of camps dotted around the arena.
If such a force could be rescued, and the Imperial Orcs were prepared to accept them into their nation, the civil service calculate it would be sufficient to allow the Imperial Orcs to build a third army. Supporting such an army would be difficult, they would need a second territory, something fertile and prosperous that could provide the food and logistics needed to support a force. But crucially they would have what they currently lack, sufficient people of martial inclination, who would be prepared to join up and fight.
The table shows the combined strength of fleets and military units that would be needed to achieve the goal in question. Each standard military unit or fleet assigned to this action effectively adds 100 points toward successful resolution of the opportunity. Each additional rank of upgrade or enchantment adds another 20 points. Rituals and other effects that increase the ranks of a unit engaging in paid work or a fleet engaging in privateering will increase the effective strength for purposes of this special action.
Crucially however, both fleets and military units will be needed in equal number to achieve the outcome, fleets to carry the soldiers to and from the target and the soldiers to do the bulk of the fighting. If the effective strength of the fleets assigned to the expedition is more than 25% higher than the effective strength of the military units then the excess is wasted - and vice-versa. Both will be needed in roughly equal amounts to achieve the greatest rewards.
Pit Fighters and Reavers
It is likely that any slaves freed from Beoraidh will require little persuasion to join the Imperial Orcs - assuming the nation is prepared to accept them. Those already trained in martial combat will likely make excellent soldiers, and even those disinterested in fighting will likely embrace a life as far away from the Bay of Catazar as they can get.
If sufficient numbers of slaves are freed - if the Empire achieves the best possible outcome - then these ex-gladiators and enslaved army recruits will be able to provide the backbone of a new Imperial Orc army, provided the orcs are able to secure a second territory to provide further support for that army. Even if they do not gain a second territory in the near future however, these new recruits will address several of the problems the Imperial Orcs have with supply ensuring they will be able to replace casualties in their current armies, or replace one of their two existing forces if one should be lost for any reason.
The Winter Sun
There is one force of soldiers in the Empire who would be uniquely suited to assist with a raid of this nature. The Winter Sun possess a powerful drive to help free those who live in chains - but the army is far away in Sermersuaq, and even were it closer there are many good reasons for it not to strike out on its own into Grendel territory. That said, there is a tradition among the Imperial Orcs of soldiers who do not directly support the armies but instead engage in independent reaving and the line between legions and reavers is easily crossed in both directions. It would not be difficult for the general of the Winter Sun to take advantage of this, and encourage their soldiers to help support the raid on Beoraidh.
If the general of the Winter Sun remains on the defensive in an Imperial territory for the coming season they may include in their orders encouragement to support the attack on Beoraidh. If they do so the effective strength of the Winter Sun will be reduced by 3,000 should the army be engaged in a campaign this season, but 3,000 effective strength will be added to the raid against Beoraidh, as if it came from additional military units. Assuming the Winter Sun does not come under attack this season, it will still be eligible for natural resupply. The presence of enchantments on, or military units supporting, the Winter Sun will not effect their contribution to the opportunity.
As a significant military action against a barbarian nation. there is nothing to stop the Imperial Senate or the Quartermaster General of the Imperial Armies declaring that fleets and military units joining the attack against Beoraidh will receive a share of the Imperial Guerdon just as if they had supported an Imperial army or special project.
During the Winter Solstice, the Quartermaster General of the Imperial Armies declared that fleet captains and military commanders supporting the raid against Beoraidh would be eligible for shares of the Imperial Guerdon. Details of the outcome of the raid will be available in the Spring Equinox Winds of Fortune.