Up on Whittle Hill
(And thirty years ago, his grandmother Joyce Watcher sits in the same place, eating her own lunch. On that day, the valley comes alive with brutal shapes, savage orc warriors, who fill the air with guttural voices raised in rough song as they march. Joyce runs down the hill, lunch forgotten, shouting a hue-and-cry, raising the pikes to the defence of the Whittle Hill.)
William Watcher stares across the empty valley. It is never empty, or shouldn’t be. You can always see some Jotun patrol or other, marching this way or that. But they haven't been seen for a few days, called away perhaps and not yet returned.
He eats his lunch in silence, lost in his own thoughts. His brow furrows - he sees something that confuses him. Two patrols, but the orcs look strange. They march under the flag of a boar’s head. They move closer, about a mile away now as the crow flies, and he realises that they aren’t orcs at all. Are they ... humans? Not all of them: some of them have horns, antlers, mottled skin, scales - like what Joyce had always told him the Lineaged looked like, back when you used to get them round the Whittle way.
How could they be here? What were they going to do?
Young Watcher has always heard tales, of what'd happen when the Empire came back for the Whittle. But his generation has always treated them as jokes, you know, just jokes. No-one really believes it’ll happen… and now it has.
William doesn’t quite understand, and he looks down upon the people he doesn’t know, strange folk, strange faces, and his gut fills up with a powerful force of apprehension. What’ll happen now?
He knows he has to tell the steward, and the friar. They'll know what to do: they always do.He runs down the hill, his lunch forgotten, shouting a hue-and-cry, calling the pikes to the defence of the Whittle Hill.
Thanks to the Jotun defence, the Imperial forces have made no further progress toward the final liberation of the Mournwold. Despite this, they have still sent out patrols and scouts as armies are wont to do. Some of them have attempted to gain inroads into Freemoor. When exploring further, they've made contact with the folk of Whittle, a village at the base of the Whittle Hill.
The folk of Whittle appear to have weathered the Jotun invasion. It seems that after an initial short-lived occupation by the Jotun they took back their village and the territory around it, dug in, and waited for help to come. Unable to contact the outside world, lacking magical or mundane means to get word out that they were alive, they settled down to wait.
It has been thirty years since the Mourn fell: and now, finally, help has come.
The people of Whittle do not seem to regard their potential liberation as a blessing. They've grudgingly allowed Imperial troops into the town, given them quarters: but there is definitely a constant edge of hostility. This is particularly pronounced towards those soldiers that are lineaged. According to stories, when the Jotun hammer fell there were few lineaged souls living in the village, and in the intervening years they had passed away, and no new lineaged were born. The natural Marcher tendency towards strong loyalty to one's kin seems to have been replaced with a deep suspicion of anyone not meeting this description.
Still, they are very clear that they are still loyal to the Empire - there is no question here of secession or of approval for the orc invaders. They have kept the traditions of the Marchers intact: they talk to some of the liberating troops of the village fayres that they've still held each year, every year, even as food stocks grew scarce in the leanest years. They are full of questions however and their primary interest seems to be the campaign against the Jotun. Why has it taken so long? Are they to be destroyed? There is no shortage of stories of Jotun tyranny in the years since the invasion.
They are also very interested in the opportunity to reconnect with their faith. For thirty years there has been no liao in Whittle. They speak of how hard it has been to keep the virtuous flame alive in the face of the Jotun menace.
After some days, a decision is communicated to a messenger heading back to join the main army of the Tusks. The people of Whittle have decided to send representatives to Anvil, to meet their follow Marches again, to start the process of re-connection, and to talk about how the Jotun are going to be displaced from Freemoor.
They also allude to a "great treasure, hidden away": and indicate they may be in the market for a sale - just before the Jotun invaded the Mourn there were rumours of a significant discovery beneath the Whittle Hill, a rich vein of ore that might be of interest to the weapon and armoursmiths of the Marches.
There is also a possibility that the people of Whittle may be able to offer more tangible support to the liberation of the Mournwold, although what form that might take and whether it is forthcoming is unclear. At the very least, they are apparently proud Marchers keen to reestablish their link to the egregore and reconnect with their people.