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Banners of nautilus, crab, and octopus are replaced with hastily sewn standards showing new designs.
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Through the Twilight Gate

The ink is barely dry on the treaty between Salt Lord Kaliact and the Imperial Senate when the Wolves of War pass through the Twilight Gate into Spiral. The soldiers of the League are supplemented with some of the finest scouts, who have been recruited at no little expense specifically to gather as much information as possible about the new League territory. They include a handful of former agents of the Regario Dossier brought out of retirement for one final expedition, as well as Hercynian Navarr adept at using the broken terrain of Spiral to move unseen and keen-eyed Suaq hunters.

The Wolves encounter no resistance as thy cross the border. Indeed, Rabahbarúns - the grizzled orc commander of the garrison at Ballaghadruh that guards the pass - opens the gates of the fort and cautiously welcomes the human army within. The garrison certainly seems to be stuffed with Salt Lord Kaliact's supporters, but the situation is still tense. Both sides are alert for any signs of treachery, neither entirely sure what to make of the other.

For their part the orcs are perhaps a little overwhelmed by the Wolves of War. At the command of their General, they march with full pomp and ceremony, as only an army of Free Companies can. The Grendel – the former Grendel perhaps – do their best but they cannot match the Wolves. Few fail to mark, however, the newly stitched banners showing crimson sea-wolves and five interlocked rings that hang where until very recently the nautilus and octopus standards of the Salt Lords had been flown.

Last season I asked for much , and you paid it. I mark Dawn's reckoning fulfilled. We march for Spiral, and keep those eyes open. You will hinder none who wish to leave, so behave. So now bring on the pomp, bring on our pride; now bring this city home.

Jean di Sarvos, General of the Wolves of War

The first night in Spiral is spent in the sanctuary of Ballaghadruh – the fort has been woven with a net of mithril thanks to the aid of the Spiral artisans who helped design it. The fine geometries of the web keep the dark influence of the Black Plateau at bay. There is a celebration, but it is a little muted. A little... careful. Orc and human size each other up, over adequate wine and salted fish. Soldiers' rations, but supplemented by a few fine delicacies for the commanders.

Not all the garrison are orcs; there are a double handful of humans here, mercenaries paid by Rababahrúns. They're fascinated by the Free Companies, and the opportunities they represent. There's also a fair number of recently freed slaves – all orcs – who seem very interested indeed in the stories of the other League cities beyond Spiral, beyond the constant unheard drone of that terrible thing squatting at the heart of Screed.

Kaliact has proposed an itinerary for the Wolves of War. A procession through the regions, culminating with a triumphant arrival at the City of Nets once the whole territory is secured. The journey serves a double purpose; a show of strength to discourage any who are not entirely convinced by the (former) Salt Lord's plans and to reassure the League that nothing is being concealed here. For all his civility, Rababahrúns cannot conceal his nervousness. It's clear everything is not as straightforward as he would like to present it.

Next morning, the first stop is the Legacy. The first signs that this has not been an entirely bloodless affair are clear here. While orcs loyal to Kaliact are in control of the mithril mine, it's clear there has been recent fighting here. Rhababahrúns shrugs, and laughs it off as nothing to worry about. Seàrlas Lamhaich, the Overseer of the Legacy, was not one of Kaliact's supporters. Fortunately, they vanished from their private estate during the Spring Equinox, presumably fleeing Spiral with as much mithril as they could carry. Most of the mercenaries they had employed to guard the Legacy quickly surrendered once it was clear their master had abandoned them but some of the Lamhaich family were stubborn enough to try fighting. It didn't take long to introduce them to the reality of the new regime.

The Howling Place

It is while visiting the Legacy, while securing Ossuary, that the Wolves of War are re-introduced to the miasma that hangs over Spiral. The emanations of the Black Plateau saturate the broken plans, the dry hills, the mountain foothills. The only surcease from its constant, wheedling, twisting influence is to take refuge within one of the buildings aligned with the Block. There are some priests with the Wolves, capable of providing protection from the dreadful atmosphere through the anointing ceremony but nowhere near enough to shield an entire army. Those of the cambion lineage are least affected; rather than succumbing to fear, or hallucinations, or despair they become increasingly stubborn. This, of course, creates its own problems.

The miasma seems worse at night, when people are left alone with their thoughts. If it finds a chink in someone's armour, it slips clever questing fingers inside and seeks out triggers that will cause black moods, despondency, or worse. This isn't the first time the Wolves of War have faced the Black Plateau, They were here three years ago when the leviathan awoke, after all. They take as many precautions as they can but there is only so much that can be done. Some soldiers cannot face the miasma again, and desert. More soldiers disappear in the night during the single season than in the last two years. It's best, perhaps, to think of them as having fled back to the cities of the west, cowardly but still alive. There are worse possibilities.

The General of the Wolves of War makes sure their soldiers are ready for anything, carefully balancing the politics of battle against the politics of diplomacy.


The distinguished Highborn archivist, Dinah of White Water, once wrote that "In the end, the extraordinary always becomes the mundane". It seems unlikely anyone will ever find the pressure of the Black Plateau to be “mundane”, but the actual advance across Spiral? That soon settles into a certain rhythm. The army advances warily, ready for any trap, and encounter little resistance. A few pockets of orcs, either not made aware of the plan or actively opposing it, choose to fight. They do not last long; they either surrender, or flee. Wherever possible the disciplined soldiers of the League try not to kill anyone except in clear self defence; these people are technically still foreigners after all.

In a way it was perhaps wise to give the lead to the League – even without the obvious symbolism. The main challenge here is to manage the tricky logistics of a swift advance through a territory labouring under the oppression of the Black Plateau. It's a task for professional soldiers more interested in getting the job done than glory or heroism. As one of mercenary captain puts it - "We've conquered an entire territory in a single season, with a single army, so history won't give a damn if we didn't have to fight tooth-and-nail to get there."

After Ossuary, Ankra and Cinion. Here, they meet the first Urizeni and their welcome is... mixed. By now, thanks to the heliopticon, everyone knows what is happening. Some people are already making preparations to leave Spiral for Redoubt, or Morrow, or even Zenith. Others maintain poise, but cannot completely conceal their anger, their frustration. Their feeling of betrayal, even.

From Cinion, the Wolves reach Ateri. Captain Rhababahrúns leaves then, returning to Ballaghadruh. Before he goes, he jokes that next time he sees the League soldiers he will be Rhababahrúns d'Apulian. He is replaced by a cadre of Kaliact's personal guard, led by a sturdy orc captain named Chevahn, and accompanied by a pair of magicians from the Circle of Black Sand.

The time has come to secure Screed, where the power of the Black Plateau is at its height. As they push into the region they are met by a few grim faced cambion sentinels, inhabitants of Oblivion's Edge. They bring warning of a recent increase in activity near the Black Plateau. Chevahn and her warriors seem to have no idea who these people are, nor why they are so well informed; the spire they serve is hidden from the Grendel by sheltering wings.

In Screed the Wolves encounter slightly more serious resistance. Not from the orcs, neither loyalist nor Leaguist, but from the poor wretches whose minds have been hollowed out by too much exposure to the nightmare atmosphere here. Some may once have been Grendel, or Urizen, but now they are relentless killers driven to attack and slay anyone who comes within reach. They are no match for an army, and while a score or so of soldiers are slain, the region is quickly secured. Inasmuch as it ever can be.

Apstrus and Apulus

Apstrus holds bad memories for some of the Wolves. This is where the Battle of Solen's Doubt was fought, when three Grendel armies were torn to shreds in a single day. There is a little more resistance here, and Chevahn is forced to admit that things have not been as straightforward as Kaliact may have presented them. In truth the Salt Lord didn't expect the Empire to act so quickly, believing they would draw things out until the very last moment. By accepting the treaty straight away, they have put her in a difficult position. While most of her potential rivals – Grendel in position to create serious trouble – have already been dealt with there are a few who remain at large.

One of those is Paymaster Muireall, a Grendel entrepreneur almost ruined by a disastrous foray into the Mountains of the Moon. Kaliact expected her to retreat into Mareave when she was forced to liquidate most of her wealth, but she refused to give up. It's clear some of the Grendel appreciate her audacity; she has gathered a number of other orcs who don't want to join the Empire and created a hidden camp somewhere along the southern borders of Apstrus. They do not have enough military strength to contest the region - indeed they studiously refrain from violence either against the local population or The Wolves of War - but they refuse to accept that Spiral is now part of the Empire. Attacking them is out of the question; unless they strike first any violence against them would be a breach of the peace treaty with the Grendel.

There are another few brief skirmishes with orcs still loyal to the Salt Lords, but no great battles. There will be no moments of glorious triumph, no historic victories. On the other hand, when there is fighting in Spiral, the Black Plateau takes notice, and who wants that? No, better to ensure this handover of power as peacefully as possible.

Undertain Future.jpg
The future is all around us, waiting, in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.

City of Nets

The veneer of civility that has attended the conquest so far falls away completely as the Wolves of War move into Apulus. The scouts accompanying the army have seen signs that up until very recently there were two Grendel armies in Spiral, but they left for Mareave at almost the same time the Wolves came through the Twilight Gate.

Intelligence suggests that the Black Eels and the Brine Turtles had been stationed here by the Salt Lords Council, not due to leave until the end of the year. Had they still been present, they'd certainly have fought and the last three months would have gone very differently.

It later transpires that Kaliact engaged a skilled forger to have instructions purporting to come from the Salt Lords Council delivered to the generals of the two armies. A high risk strategy, that invited disaster for everyone, but she had no choice. She and her supporters are committed, now. There can be no turning back.

Not everyone has been so easily manipulated. Despite her best efforts, Kaliact has had a real fight on her hands. Most of the Grendel in Apulian were caught flat-footed. Fully half of them seem to have been left utterly bemused by the sudden changes. The common portrayal of the Grendel as confident and well-informed is badly damaged by encounters between Imperial forces and large numbers of Grendel who have absolutely no idea at all what is happening and are completely thrown by it. Barely a quarter of the inhabitants seem to be an active part of Kaliact's conspiracy and they have faced some serious opposition to their plans. Only the fact that they have the drop on those who have stayed Loyal to Dubhtraig has provided Kaliact's forces the edge they need to triumph.

Indeed, it becomes clear that the “itinerary” that Kaliact had suggested was also intended to keep the Wolves busy while she did a little “house cleaning.” By the time they were securing Apstrus, the fighting was all but over. There are signs of that violence, within the city itself, however. Signs of fire damage, and broken barricades, and the ugly splash of dried blood here and there in the streets. The fighting seems to have been most fierce at the docks, where the loyalists tried to seize or fire all the ships, and at the Salt Lord's palace, where her enemies sought to bring her reign to an abrupt end.

Once it became clear which way the wind was blowing, the remaining orcs fell into line with unedifying haste. Here again the banners of the Grendel have been removed, and as the Wolves of War approach the city gates they see crudely sewn flags bearing symbols of the sea horse, the crown and a throne, and the rings-and-sea-wolves. They are received amidst a crowd of disarming smiles, a welcome that is trying very hard indeed to suggest everything is fine.

By the end of the season, Spiral is part of the Empire. It is a territory of the League. The great majority of the orcs here are either aligned with Kaliact or hiding the fact they are not. Apulian in particular has the feel of a Bravo's tavern the moment before the fighting starts, the kind of fighting that will spill into a riot if not immediately contained. Everyone is eyeing everyone else, trying to work out who is on whose side, and trying not to let the soldiers of the League know that everything is not as it should be. Kaliact's people are everywhere, very visibly so, giving orders, attempting to look in control. Her supporters are in charge but only just. It is clear her forces are spread thin and the threat is very real. If they take their eye off the ball this pendulum could quickly swing again.

Game Information

Spiral is once again part of the Empire, but it is now a League territory. The Wolves of War have suffered some losses, primarily due to the influence of the Black Plateau, but also due to a few small skirmishes with loyalist Grendel. This situation is expanded on in more detail in the Winds of Fortune.

Further Reading

  • Windfall - 385YE Summer Wind of Fortune about the political situation in Spiral
  • Chords - 385YE Summer Wind of Fortune about the religious and spiritual challenges of accepting the Apulian orcs
  • TBC -