View Full Version : History of the Dark Wars, Part I

Aotrs Commander
2010-07-14, 05:53 PM
What follows is a piece of pure campaign background, presented for the pure amusement of my fellow playgrounders.

I have been working on my campaign world, Dreemaenhyll for some time. This is the sort of crazy thing I do for fun! It also helps shape the world and fill out the history, so I can better write my quests!

The following document is the history of the first part of the 80-long Dark Wars, which occured some 200 years prior to the "present." As is my typical style, it is written in an in-universe style, as if found in the popular-science histroy book of some later author. (I cite Geoffrey Regan, of the Guiness Books of Military Blunders (among others) as my influence in the writing style.)

The document assumes a working knowledge of the world, so I have provided a Glossary below, which should cover all the things that are not necessarily stated in the text.

As with all things, a map is highly useful for visualising the world. I have thus uploaded a PDF file here:


for the downloading thereof. (Since the mapping is done in TurboCAD and is somewhat fine in detail, an image of it is not really clear enough!)

(I've not tried this before, so I'm hoping it's downloadable; I've tried it myself and it works, so hopefully I've done it right!)


{table]Alhar|Land of the Alharas (“arab” humans)
Ciracan|Land of the Ciracs (“Gothic” humans)
Conquered Realm|Land of enslaved Men under control of Sokointulo(mostly “Zulu” humans or tribal cultures)
Dark Lord|A divine being (not technically a god) of enormous intelligence whose aim is conquest of the world and destruction of the gods
Deshroas|Land of the Deshrish (“Egyptian” humans)
Doom Stinger|5’ wasp-like creature, known for their distinctive drone and quite remarkable stupidity
Gagana|Highly intelligent crow-falcons, standing about 7’ tall on the ground (just barely Large)
Galause|Kingdom of the Galausians (“French” feudal medieval)
Goblin|4’6” hairless Orc-Kin, with sail-like ears and large noses; trackers
Gryphon|10’ long, intelligent eagle/lion quadrupeds
Hearthland|Land of the Hearthlanders (Halflings)
Hobgoblin|Elf-height Orc-Kin, noted for their archery skills
Kobold|Later, small (4’ tall), powerfully built Orc-Kin.
Kosaktor|Land of Kosaks, the Gold Dwarves (jewller/crafters)
KwaUbumnyama|Old land of the Ubumnyamaka, an enhanced race of human who serve the Dark Lord. (Origionally a “Zulu culture”)
Orc|6’ and very muscular and burly Orc-kin.
Quadmen|8-day period equivalent to a week
Satranath|Old land of the Satranathi, a heavily enhanced race of human who serve the Dark Lord. (Forest-dwellers)
Silaenarwae|Land of the Silaenari, the Silver Elves
Sokointulo|Land of the Intulo (“Evil Vulcan”-like lizard race)
Sokokaibra|Old land of the Kaibrans, an enhanced race of human who serve the Dark Lord. (Origionally arab-like)
Terenquar|Queendom of the Terenquari, the Grass Elves
Tulacbar|Land of Tulacs, the Peak Dwarves (“hill” dwarves)
Tuozin|Land of the Tuozin (“Aztec human wizards)
Validuslum, the Validus Empire|Empire of the Lidusain (Validus is used for imperial terms only) (“Roman” humans)
Yalaer-Saka|Land of the Yalaeri-Sako, the Dark Elves
Zaragtor|Land of Zarags, the Iron Dwarves (“scottish” dwarves) [/table]

Years are reckoned by the Validus calender in Antequam Patria (before homeland) and Anno Imperium (Year of the Empire).
The Validus year is divided into twelve months each of 32 days. A month is divided into four 8-day quadmens (as distinct from the old 7-day Galause week).

{table] |Month|Length|Season|
2|Vacast|32|Spring|Spring Equinox
5|Qunitune|32|Summer|Summer Solstice
8|Nepitus|32|Autumn|Autumn Equinox
11|Julistus|32|Winter|Winter Solstice

The seasons are measured to be each of ninety-six days, centred around the equinox and solstice periods, which occur on the 16th of the middle month of the season. The calendar starts on at the first day of spring, (i.e. forty-eight days before the spring equinox). Every 25 years, a leap-day occurs as Finune the 33rd, which puts the following year’s equinoxes and solstices back to the 16th (they would have been drifting slowly to the 15th.)

Aotrs Commander
2010-07-14, 05:54 PM

The outbreak of the Dark Wars in 2466 AI came as a surprise to no-one. It followed nearly three centuries of build-ups and minor skirmishes and even several major campaigns. In early spring, the Dark Lord’s armies finally began their offensive. Over five hundred thousand troops in several armies marched north. The sheer size of the army made it practically impossible to conceal, so the Northern Nations had plenty of warning to prepare their own defences. Even so, it was a close run-thing, as a vocal element of the Validus senate tried to hand-wave away the preparations and even made some attempt to suppress the information of the size on mobilisation of the Dark Lord’s army. (There is some debate as to whether these elements were working for the Dark Lord, but there is no proof of this on either side.)

Prologue to War

To field an army of that size took a staggering amount of supply and effort. Much effort over the last three hundred years and beyond had gone into the preparation.

The events that finally stirred the Dark Wars into motion began in 2190 at the Dark Cataclysm. The Dark Lord was attempting to use a magical ritual that would raise the area of all of his nations north of Sokointulo several hundred feet upwards, creating a massive cliff perfect for defence. The Dark Lord made a very rare but catastrophic miscalculation, however. Instead of raising his lands high into the air, the Dark Lord destroyed much of the work of previous centuries by blasting out a 450-mile crater in the centre of his northern lands when his magic went wrong. The blast reduced virtually everything in the area to dust. For quadmens afterwards, the nights were much brighter (bright enough to read by) and there were spectacular sunsets caused by the amount of particulate matter in the atmosphere. The noise of the blast was heard throughout the Northern Nations.

The whole of the crater area was effectively sterilised by the blast and some of the lasting magical permutations and natural radiation had very deleterious effects on any life trying to re-establish. By the time the Dark Lord recovered some months later, the Intulo had more-or-less quarantined the crater area and the northern humans nations were in dire straits.

KwaUbumnyama, traditionally nestled between the Umfulabi (dark river) and Uguolubomvu (red bank) rivers lost all of its important settlements save the ports of Imunkanto and Akovombisi on the rivers. Both these rivers dried up, cut off by the blast area, while the Uguolubomvu’s southern reaches poured into the new desert and most evaporated. The forest-realm Satranath was destroyed almost in its entirety, leaving only a few surviving peripheral villages and ex-patriots. Sokokaibra, the largest nation, was least devastated, as some settlements survived to the south and east, near Sokointulo and Yalaer-Saka.

As soon as the Dark Lord recovered, he contacted Sokointulo via magic and started the slow process of fixing the damage. This involved starting to decontaminate the affected area, starting with a route out south to Sokointulo.

What remained of Sokokaibra was absorbed into Sokointulo and Yalaer-Saka. An expeditionary force of Validus Legions investigated sometime after the disaster; they paused long enough to raze Imunkanto in early 2191, the largest and most northern of the surviving two KwaUbumnyama cities and effectively end that country’s ability to continue to govern and sustain itself. The Ubumnyamaka had some retribution, however, when the expeditionary force entered the crater and suffered massive casualties. Concluding that nothing could have survived, the force retreated. It was not until several years later that the Dark Lord’s survival was divined.

During the decontamination process, the Dark Lord made a far-reaching discovery. He found that the application of some of the radiation and magical residue worked in concert to make rapid changes in living creatures – mostly plants, since more complex animals tended not to survive. The Dark Lord knew that long ages in a high-magic environment mutated creatures relatively quickly, but this was a vastly faster process. Not only that, the Dark Lord realised, but with study and experimentation, it was one he himself could replicate and control. And so began the Dark Lord’s attempts to engineer new species to enable him to conquer the north.

To start with, this was more of a pastime than a major goal, since other things required the Dark Lord’s attention. Firstly, decontaminating the crater was a high priority, at least until he had got enough that the land could start to be used. The decontamination required two phases – the elimination of the most dangerous emanations (which were mostly fatal) and the clean-up of the magical fall-out which was preventing life from returning. The latter required more time and effort, but in lesser quantities than the major decontamination. Thus, the Dark Lord was able to have other spellcasters begin this work while he and his most powerful followers attempted the faster but much more taxing primary decontamination.

Meanwhile, the Men were being resettled as best as possible. The Dark Lord abandoned everything north of the crater wall, which has ever since marked the boundary of the Dark Lands. As the clean-up concentrated mostly on the south and south east of the crater, nearest to Sokointulo and Yalaer-Saka, the toxic wastes provided a natural defence. South of the crater to the west was the last vestige of KwaUbumnyama and some parts of Sokokaibra and Sokointulo. The Dark Lord moved as many of the survivors from the three nations of Men there, and placed it under the administration of the Sokointulo.

Food was at this point becoming scare, for the destroyed areas encompassed most of the best arable land and most plentiful game supplies. The Dark Lord was forced to use magic to create foodstuffs in the short term, while in Yalaer-Saka and the Sokointulo’s northernmost reaches, every available area suitable for farming was being converted as soon as labour could be found for it. At this time the Dark Elves had not completely lost their Light Elf roots and so the task was done without the resentment it would have caused in later times (when the Dark Elves would deem this sort of work beneath them).

Once the immediate crisis was stabilised, the Dark Lord began the long process for restoring the region to some semblance of its former glory. It would take nearly a hundred years before the Dark Lands was completely decontaminated (though after the frantic work of the first few years, the rate slowed considerably). Very slowly, parts of the crater began to become useful again, and plant life began to return – and the land could be used for growing some thin crops which, while poor, at last staved off the worst of the starvation problems. During this time, the Dark Lord also realised he could not afford to lose what few powerful humans he had left and began the work on how to preserve them, which culminated in Black Necromancy and Liches.

The Dark Lord’s experimentation with creating new species started with tinkering with existing ones and then slowly developed into combining elements of one creature with another. He started on animals and even some plants before trying on slaves. He created many breeds of half-men, bestial creatures and other oddities, but most were sterile, short-lived and unstable. He failed even to manage to replicate the limited success of the Pegasus, which were created by a magical accident before the second invasion, over a thousand years prior. But as time progressed, he gained more proficiency. Once he had finalised his work on Black Necromancy and bulk of the major decontamination of the crater - now being termed the Dark Lands by Northern nations and his servants alike – at the start of the 24th century AI, he was able to devote much more of his time to the work. One of his earliest successes were the Doom Stingers. With their comparatively simple biology and relatively minimal changes – mostly due to size – they were a runaway triumph of their time.

Eventually, the northern nations acquired the knowledge to follow in his footsteps, some hundred and fifty years before the outbreak of the Dark Wars, in 2319 AI, via a daring raid into Xooruun Kovytorr by a band of heroes. It was not until the last half-century leading up to the Dark Wars that they managed to do so with any proficiency, however.

Confident in his abilities now, the Dark Lord began actively working on his subject races, concentrating mainly on the more malleable mammal stock. He had always taken some interest in assuring strong bloodlines in his subjects, but now he began a breeding program in earnest. This experiment lead to the racially distinct Men and Elves now under his command. As he gained even more skill, he started on his most ambitious project yet – creating a new species of humanoid more-or-less from scratch. This was the rise of the Orc-Kin. The results speak for themselves; the Orc-Kin are among the Dark Lord’s proudest achievements. The first Orc-Kin were called Orcs, but they resemble what later became Orcs only passingly and are now generally referred to as proto-Orcs. The Dark Lord began his selective breeding from this template, and added a mix of magical modifications from the base stock. The Dark Lord maintained a breeding population of these earliest proto-Orcs, as well as samples in case he wished to start afresh, up until the fall of Xooruun Kovytorr at the end of the Dark Wars.
Eventually, he created three races today’s Orcs, Hobgoblins, Goblins (the latter two more or less simultaneously) from the proto-Orc stock. Kobolds, which formed the fourth and final race of his quartet in mirror to the four races of his northern enemies, came much later, appearing some years into the Dark Wars.

With his numbers swelling from the Orc-Kin, the Dark Lord began now to turn his attentions northward. He realised he would need a significant army to be able to deal with the Northern Nations and to support it he would need an equally large infrastructure. The Dark Lands are traditionally pictured in popular fiction and illustration as a sandy desert with Xooruun Kovytorr rising out of the middle. In truth, only the northernmost parts of the Dark Lands are desert, forming a natural barrier to northern invasion. Much of the rest of the crater at this time was being slowly covered by a network of roads, farms and military barracks and their attached training grounds. (Since the end of the Dark Wars, most of these fell into disrepair and ruin or became independent of the Dark Lord.) Now there was another major task, one that is close to heart of the Lidusain; the managing of water. The changes wrought by the Dark Cataclysm had left the Dark Lands as an open expanse of flat plain. This reduced drastically the amount of rain that fell, since the bare rock and sand tended to heat up fast and create what amounted to one enormous thermal; especially before the primary contamination was removed. In addition, what rain did fall simply evaporated or trickled away into the loose sand and porous bedrock that covered much of the Dark Lands.

So, the Dark Lord ordered that series of waterways be dug and prepared, starting from where the Uguolubomvu was now tipping into the desert sand and being lost. This ambitious project coincided with the road workings and all manner of other water-saving methods, including cisterns and much technology copied from Validuslum and Sokointulo. To this day, all around the southern and eastern edges of the Dark Lands, rivers and streams have been channelled to flow into this network.

The Dark Lord’s next command was to build great road ways all the way to the lip of the crater and beyond. These roads were an impressive sight in their hour. They were a good hundred feet across, and lined with supply dumps, barracks, water supplies and way-stations. It took over sixty years to build the network until it’s completion, and they ran to the edge of the Dark Lands. Four massive fortress cities were built at each terminus, and bands of Orcs began to patrol and secure the areas around them. Once the these were complete, and the Dark Lands was now mostly a network of roads, workings and small covered streams, the Dark Lord began the final preparations for war and building up his forces as large as he could manage.

The Road War

The Dark Wars began officially on the morning of the 26th of Primune, 2466, when the order came for the massive invasion forces to move out from their fortresses where they had been gathered. The 500, 000 troops were divided into four roughly equal groups, the 1st – 4th Grand Armies. The aim of this first campaign, which lasted from 2466 to 2471 (which was later dubbed the Road War) was to secure the river Vendir. From there, the Dark Lord had a major supply artery to invade. To the east, he could strike into Terenquar and southern Kosaktor and north up to Hearthland and the Silver Forest. Once Magus Dupondium was secure to the west, he had access to the major port of Nova Marisurbi and the South Argent river and ultimately the Silver Lake and all the way up the Argent to Tulacbar. In addition, the region (Tueriaustria) around Leventium and Vitarnium was rich with both cattle farms and natural game.

However, while this is the official date, the Dark Wars had already begun as roads towards the north from the fortresses were already being built. The Dark Lord could not complete the roads before launching his invasion (after a point, the roads would be vulnerable to raids from Terenquar and Lidusain forces) and as his forces were reaching the limit of the infrastructure to support, he realised that he would have begin his invasion soon. Indeed, by the time his troops were marching in 2466, the Dark Lands were at their limit and it became important to start the invasion just to maintain the armies. So the Dark Lord’s forces began a slow northward march. In Validuslum, the roads were headed for the cities of Vitarnium, Leventium and Confluentium Grandis, while the eastern-most fortress, Kalavokra, was to build a road to Maearrlae in Terenquar. This was the most dangerous as the road would have to cover 120 miles in a straight line across the Grass Elf land.

Despite all the advanced warning it was two quadmens before the Northern Nations became aware of the start of the invasion and in Validuslum still the fractious senators still did nothing. Imperator Caesar Slavis Augustus was aging and unfit to rule, kept in power by the manipulations of the senate. It was not until the 2nd Grand Army, with the shortest distance to cover – a ‘mere’ sixty miles – reached the first settlements south of the Vendir that the senate took things seriously. The Grass Elves responded more immediately, and the 4th Grand Army began a running battle across Terenquar.

This phase of the war was marked by frequent Doom Stinger raids all over the theatre. The first true aerial assault began with an air-borne attack on IV Legion’s fortification in 2466 by a massive force of nearly 15,000 Doom Stingers, commanded by Pegasus air cavalry and as many other flying leaders as the operation’s commander – the young but already dangerous Shadow Drake Skalegor – could find. Skalegor, well aware at this point of the Doom Stinger’s limited intelligence, planned to have them directed by smarter flying leaders in as small a group as he could manage. He planned to lead the attack well in advance of the main ground forces, planning a forced-march flight over sixty miles in less than 48 hours. The objective was to capture the fortress without any support and hold it until the main army arrived. It was an ambitious plan, but one doomed to disastrous failure.

While the attack did destroy the fort and cripple IV Legion, Skalegor found that the Doom Stinger’s distinctive drone multiplied thousands of times not only erased any chance of surprise but had a deleterious effect on the commanders. He was forced to withdraw a third of his initial leaders due to medical and psychological problems being subjected to the drone for so long. This meant his Doom Stingers attacked in a much less directed fashion. In addition, once the Legion had realised what was going on, the leaders, most of them very obvious among the Doom Stingers, suffered disproportionate casualties. Finally, Skalegor found it impossible to hold the ground with a primarily aerial army and was forced to withdraw when X Legion arrived shortly afterwards and attempted to retake the shattered fort. The Doom Stingers were weakening and starting to die, from the combined exertion of the flight and battle, being too stupid to rest. It is now commonly believed that the Doom Stingers suffered from the first recorded case of Stinger Fever, which exacerbated the situation by exhausting them further and raising their temperature. It is a testament to Skalegor’s skill that he managed to take a goodly amount of the supplies with him during his withdrawal, however. His force suffered two-thirds casualties by the time he had returned, mainly due to disease-induced exhaustion and hunger. Massed Doom Stinger assaults were tried again, though not in quite such large numbers and never so far away from ground support and supply lines.

The Road War lasted five years. At the end of this time, the Dark Lord held Leventium and Confluentium Grandis, but the 1st Grand army had been severely mauled and forced back from Vitarnium. The 4th Grand Army, despite a running attritional battle against the Terenquari, had only managed to cover half the distance. Importantly, however, a decisive victory masterminded by the Dark Elf commander Lavasier S’Drassa had secured control over south Terenquar’s most verdant arable lands. Both sides needed to recuperate their forces. S’Drassa began the long task of fortifying the city of Firrnyr, which served as the Dark Lord’s forward base in Terenquar for much of the war.

The Dark Lord had suffered higher losses than expected, especially from the Gryphons who came into the war in numbers in the latter two years. The Gryphons caused most damage to his supply lines, and it was quite obvious by this point that the Doom Stingers were hopelessly outclassed. The air attack launched with massed Doom Stingers on General Yulrien Fellentiel’s Terenquari army was massacred by her Gryphon wings and casualties were nearly total. From this point onwards, Doom Stingers were withdrawn from active combat duty and primarily assumed the role of rapid aerial supply transport, which was to become their main role from then on.

The next two years were marked by limited skirmishes spurred on by adventurers or the semi-autonomy the Dark Lord had granted his leaders. The Dark Lord himself went to work to create a counter to the Gryphons and this took a good deal of his time and energy.

2473 War

This brief respite was followed by another four years of heavy fighting, both sides hurling forces into the conflict. At the end of this period (the 2473 War), the Dark Lord had pushed forward and finally captured Vitarnium. His efforts were aided by one of the most scandalous wastes of resources the Validus Empire has ever undertaken. The Validus senate was planning what they believed to be the masterstroke that would end the Dark Lord’s plans; the Validus Legions would mount a naval invasion of the Dark Lands and attack Xooruun Kovytorr directly, an operation to be known ever after as Baratus’ Folly. A brainchild of senator Philus Baratus, this was an attempt to end the war quickly. This was a disaster, from start to finish. First of all, the expectations of the planners were unrealistic. Baratus’ cohorts were, like himself, merely rich patricians and none of them had any real military experience. He bribed several of the more knowledgeable senators on to his side and forced the operation through. He was a master manipulator of people, and had the mission been a success, he would have been within striking distance of the Validus throne. Imperator Slavis even had signed a secret agreement that once the Dark Lord was slain, he would officially adopt Baratus as the heir designate.

The elite I Legion was chosen for this ‘honour’, though the choice of VII Legion to accompany them was less inspired. Indeed, it was only because the Legate was in Baratus’ pocket and so easily controllable that they were selected. VII Legion was woefully unprepared, however. They had not been involved in any recent engagements and consisted of a great deal of new recruits. Moreover, they had not had any naval training and so had to be hastily drilled by the I Legion instructors as they left port. The supply effort was appalling, with the supplies coming from the lowest bidder and loaded in a ramshackle fashion. Despite the senate’s attempts at secrecy – which apparently didn’t apply to anyone who happened to work in the senator’s thermae – the Dark Lord was well aware of the coming invasion and well prepared. Moreover, the landing site chosen had not been reconnoitred; it was simply a spot, picked more-or-less between Imunkanto and Akovombisi where the crater was nearest the sea. From there, I and VII Legions were supposed to march across the Dark Lands (apparently unopposed), using the Dark Lord’s own supplies and cast down one of the largest and most well-defended fortresses in the world.

Almost as soon as the fleet left its final supply stop at Nova Marisurbi (it had sailed all the way from Nepitar) the fleet was subject to a steady stream of attritional aerial and sea attacks, several conducted by Skalegor himself. The food supplies began to go rotten only a couple of quadmens into the trip. Morale was very low by the time the Legions reached the ruins of Imunkanto; between raids and bureaucratic incompetence, food was were running low and the Legions were on starvation rations. Many were now suffering from diseases, especially the easily preventable scurvy. The legionaries had not been paid since they left Nepitar and the force had suffered a good five percent losses due to desertion.

The Legions made an unopposed landing, and started to feel better. The truth was the Dark Lord was in no hurry. The Legions would take care of themselves. The suffering Lidusain began the march inland, only to find that there was not as much bounty in the desert as they had been told. Nevertheless, they pressed on. Meanwhile, the Dark Lord’s own meagre naval forces were assembling at Akovombisi under the command of the brilliant Damovk Furlisstor. Their surprise attack, combined with heavy air support (and the first engagement ever to feature the then proto-Gagana) wiped out the Validus fleet in one masterful stroke.

When this news reached the Legions, the Legate in command, Marcus Navius Aurelius knew that they were doomed. The Legions had nowhere to retreat to and were surrounded by enemies and with a swelling list of casualties from disease, suicides and starvation. He resolved to press on, rather than to attempt to fortify near the sea where at least there was a steady supply of water forced his way inland. The Dark Lord’s forces simply cut off most of the water channels leading to that area and the Legionaries rapidly began to fall. There were quite a number of defections (including one Legion cleric-centurion Kyrius Gracilis, later to become the Lich Kyrius Perturbion.)

The Legions were eventually just rounded up, too weak to even fight. The Dark Lord had not had to strike a blow. The rest of the Legions spent the rest of their days in chains, though a handful were rescued by adventurers some years later to tell the sorry tale.

Regardless, it was quite obvious the invasion was a complete disaster and gave the Lidusain enough impetus to imprison Baratus. The resultant shock gave Slavis is heart-attack, leaving the throne free for the first of three great Emperors, Imperator Caesar Panesis Invictus Augustus (Panesis Fulminis).

Meanwhile, 4th Grand Army had finally reached Maearrlae and in 2477 the first siege of Maearrlae began. Maearrlae was Terenquar’s largest city, larger even than the capital, Quandrithill and the administrative capital for the west Queendom. It was well-fortified and the Elves had had a decade’s warning. It was also situated on a magical nexus and was one of the foremost centre of magical learning in the Northern Nations at that time. Maearrlae had become a magically-defended fortress-city and it withstood the siege for years. The first siege lasted a mere fifteen months before it was broken by a Terenquar army.

Six more times over the remaining fifty-eight years of the Dark Wars Maearrlae was besieged, culminating in the Great Siege of Maearrlae (often just called the Siege of Maearrlae) which lasted an astonishing ten years and was only broken during the final campaign at the end of the Dark Wars. The Great Siege stands as a testament to the determination of the Terenquar and the ingenuity of countless Elves, magic-users and adventurers who prolonged it’s defence as well as to those outside whose tireless and increasingly inventive methods of trying to take it pushed the defenders to the very limit.

The Dark Lord realised that even with all the new magic at his disposal and his rapidly breeding Orc-Kin, he was in for a very long and bitter fight. Furthermore, the longer he delayed, the greater the chances of the Northern Nations leaders and heroes uniting them all against him. Until this point, it had mainly been the Validus Legions and the Terenquar army against his own forces, but a steadily increasing trickle of ally contingents were starting to join the fight.

The Elven War

For next four years, from 2477 to 2781, the Lidusain and the Dark Lord’s armies entrenched their defences. There was limited skirmishing around Vitarnium and Confluentium Grandis in particular and several smaller towns changed hands, but no major strategic goals were established. Even Orcs needed some time to grow and the Dark Lord found despite his best efforts, that the population he’d achieved prior to the war was extremely difficult to maintain. The proto-Gagana, who were deployed after being effectively accelerated to adulthood as a stop-gap measure were problematic due to mental and physical problems caused by the stresses imposed upon them. This problem only got worse as they got older, despite the extensive training and education they were receiving during this period. The first true Gagana were still in infanthood.

The Dark Lord had profited quite well from Baratus’ Folly. Furlisstor had managed to capture several Lidusain ships and they were taken back to Akovombisi where they were analysed. The Dark Lord then began on an ambitious program of naval development, greatly expanding Akovombisi’s port into a massive naval base and shipyards over the course of the next six years.

In Validuslum, in the meantime, the change of power did not go over quite as smoothly as would have been liked. There was a considerable political squabble before Panesis Avunius Mallio Fulminis (most commonly known to all as Panesis Fulminis) – rather against his will – was designated Emperor. In addition, subversive elements in the far east province of Ortusolia attempted to take advantage of the chaos by declaring their independence. Panesis was forced to quell this rebellion as a sign of his political and martial strength. So the southern front, without either side pushing on, was largely left in stalemate.

In Terenquar, however, things were not nearly so placid. The Terenquar army that had broken the siege of Maearrlae continued to push the weakening 4th Grand Army southwards. They could not quite force them back to the Dark Lands, however, because of the steady flow of reinforcements coming up from the south. While the Elven units were becoming steadily more experienced, and were dealing with progressively poorer qualities of troops, the attrition was slowly whittling away their numbers. Despite generally winning the battles and skirmishes on the fields, they were not able to decisively defeat enough of the Dark Lord’s forces to break the back of the invading armies.

Meanwhile, Yalaer-Saka, which had been supplying a fairly minimal amount of troops to the war effort so far had, along with the Dark Dwarves, being slowly excavating a tunnel under the Bleak Mountains since just after the wars began. The tunnel was finally completed in 2480, and a Dark Elf invasion force under Lord-General Salaiss Lathrier entered in the following spring and marched on the Terenquari city of Naerendill, which fell to the surprise attack. The Yalaeri-Sako made it as far as Quandrithill, where they laid siege to the Elven capital for nearly a year.

The Council of Queens made a desperate entreaty for help to Kosaktor, and the Dwarves eventually responded. One Dwarf army went down to Anoriae to reinforce the flagging battle in the south, and another left Gundulbad to relieve Quandrithill. The Grass Elves managed at last to form up and army in Andesill and assaulted and recaptured Naerendill. The main Yalaeri-Sako army was now in serious trouble, with its supply lines cut and two small but powerful armies moving on it from south and north-west.

Lathrier grossly miscalculated the speed of the Dwarf advance, and due to several factors including highly skilled advance forces which expertly eliminated his scouts, they were almost upon him. As news of Naerendill’s fall reached him, realised his only hope was to storm Quandrithill and dig in. He immediately launched a massive and bloody assault on Quandrithill. The assault was initially a success, with the walls finally breached and the Dark Elves taking several portions of the ramparts. But then the Dwarves arrived, having come to the same conclusion as Lathrier and having made a forced march themselves. Shaking off the effects of the fatigue, the Dwarf army fell on the besieging Dark Elves. The battle was fierce and it was beginning to look like despite everything, Lathrier was holding together his force and starting to gain the other hand. At the eleventh hour, however, the cavalry in the shape of the southern Grass Elf army arrived and struck the Dark Elves from behind. The Grass Elf force was quite small, only three thousand Elves strong, but contained veterans from the south-eastern front. The resultant chaos was enough to turn the tide. Lathrier was killed in the fighting and the Dark Elf force was routed and scattered.

The Battle of Quandrithill at the turn of spring and summer in 2482, is noted as being one of the few large engagements fought primarily between Elves and Dwarves of both sides (since the Yalaeri-Sako had a sizeable force of Dark Dwarves with them); only three regiments of Men (two Kaibran and one Ubumnyama) participated.

This defeat represented a significant proportion of Yalaer-Saka’s armed forces, and it effectively knocked them out of the war from some time. The Dark Dwarves, never very many in number, were effectively destroyed by this campaign and never participated in battle in any great numbers thereafter. The Dark Lord was reputed to be most displeased.

Historians have long-since questioned the wisdom of the campaign in the first place. Many have said it would have been much more strategically sound to have assaulted Anoriae, which would have effectively split Terenquar in half, instead of attacking the capital with a much longer supply chain.

The victorious Dwarf and Elf forces at Quandrithill pursued the routing Yalaeri-Sako army back down to the tunnel and spent the remainder of the campaign season closing the tunnel as much as they could. A fortress and a series of watch-towers were built near the exit point to prevent further incursion from this avenue.

Aotrs Commander
2010-07-14, 05:55 PM
The 2482-2484 Campaigns

The next phase of war began in the spring of 2482, with the renewed Validus Legions making an assault on Vitarnium. By the 23rd of Fade, they had fought their way to Vitarnium’s walls to lay siege to the city.

To the east, the newly formed 5th Grand Army (though in truth it was smaller than the previous Grand Armies) moved up to support the beleaguered 4th. With their forces then split between the two Queendoms, the Terenquari were forced all the way back to the walls of Maearrlae within six months, and the Second Siege of that city began in the late fall. However, once again, the city held off the attackers through the winter. In the spring, the Dwarf-Elf army left their winter quarters in Naerendill and marched to relieve the city. The fighting was heavy around the city, with the reinforcing army beaten back in several offenses, but eventually, as the 2483 campaign year drew to a close, the siege of Maearrlae was once again lifted. The 5th and tattered remnants of the 4th Grand Army were forced to withdraw to their stronghold at Firrnyr. The Elven and Dwarven generals considered pressing their advantage and following the retreating armies all the way to Firrnyr, but with the increasingly inclement weather as the year drew to a close, wisely decided to wait until the following spring.

As the year turned, the siege at Vitarnium became increasingly desperate, as the terrible weather that year prevented supplies begin easily shipped in from Leventium. The defenders grimly held on through until the spring, when the weather improved. However, the arrival of XVI Legion renewed the pressure, and for a couple of quadmens it seemed certain that Vitarnium would be back in the hands of the Legions.

However, reinforcement in the form of the 35th Guard Brigade arrived. The 13th were fresh troops from the Dark Lands. While most of the Guard Army’s auxiliary troops were mostly green recruits, the core of the army was the veteran 3rd Inisassko Battalion, who had distinguished themselves putting down the 2475 revolt in the Conquered Realm. With their expertise, despite considerable casualties, Vitarnium remained untaken, though they siege remained unbroken at the end of 2483.

Confluentium Grandis meanwhile, was standing strong against sporadic attacks by the remaining Terenquar armies and a few desultory campaigns launched down the Depilutia by the Lidusain. The 3rd Grand Army gained no ground of note, but neither did they lose any. After fourteen years of construction and fortification, it was simply too well defended to take without a more serious campaign, which the Terenquar could not commit. The Legions had instead been fortifying Umidastor against assault. As was later proven, this was a mistake. A strong attack in 2482-3 would have further split the waning numbers of reinforcements to the 1st, 4th and 5th Grand armies, and thus gained a victory in the east or west, particularly at Vitarnium. This would have placed the Lidusain in striking distance of Leventium. However, as it was, Leventium was left utterly untouched, allowing more construction work on roads to begin, this time slowly snaking north towards Ciracan and the river Wrelm and Parntall, which it would finally reach in 2487.

Over winter of 2483-4, Terenquar and Kosaktor sent emissaries to Tulacbar and Silaenarwae. At the time, Zaragtor was undergoing a period of internal strife due to inter-clan feuding. In any case, even if they would have been receptive to an alliance, there would have been no way to send an army to help except by passing through Galause or Validuslum (neither of which were likely to have allowed it at the time.) Tulacbar may have been more willing to end aid, but again, had no way of reaching them. With Panesis Fulminis in the field, the Validus senate was not willing to send any further aid to the Terenquari, citing that they had their hands full enough as it was. Given the events of 2384-6, it is probably as well they did so, as it would have denuded the Illiusan sea of defenders just as it was about to come under attack. The Silaenari dispatched a sizable force from Maerremanwae to sail down to the port of Nurakol and bring reinforcements all the way through Kosaktor and Terenquar, a journey of some 1400 miles, which took them most of the following year.

As 2484 dawned, the gains made by the Northern Nations in 2483 were soon curtailed as the next generation of troops now marched north out of the Dark Lands. Vitarnium’s siege was lifted by the arrival of the 21st Shadow Guard Army. The Lidusain were forced back to Mascurnas, and both sides dug in to recover for the remainder of the campaign season.

The Terenquari/Kosak army, now under the command of Queen Laeritinylia moved quickly and as soon as the weather cleared, moved south and managed to besiege Firrnyr before their reinforcements could arrive. With a fresh influx of Dwarf forces from Kosaktor to bolster them, they were able to maintain the siege and drive off the attacks of the 26th Shadow Guard Army, forcing it back to Kalavokra. They managed to maintain their hold over the Dark Armies with a series of excellently-executed hit-and-run strikes, which prevented the 26th from reinforcing Firrnyr. Lavasier S’drassa, penned up in Firrnyr, fretted over the less-than-competent generalship showed by his relief, but could do little but wait and grit his teeth.

In the summer, the Dark Lord’s fleet set sail from the newly completed Akovombisi shipyards. The shipyards had not yet begun to production, but the fleet as it stood was sufficient to the task, which was to make a landfall on the Isle of Issid and establish a base with which to more easily strike at the Illiusan Sea when the new grand Fleet had been constructed.

The Fulminic War

The period later known as the Fulminic War (2485-2489) is one of the most important periods of the whole Dark Wars, as it saw the start of the Scattering and the decisive Battle of Leventium, which swung the war back in the favour of the Northern Nations for over a decade, the Conference of Kings and the death of Panesis Fulminis and his son’s ascension to the throne.

In 2485, further Dark Army reinforcements allowed the 21st Shadow Guard Army to begin a new offensive against Mascurnas. Panesis Fulminis realised that the Dark Lord was willing and able to replace his losses much faster than Validuslum alone could replace, and the Dark Lord was willing to sacrifice more-poorly trained troops to shields his veterans. And the amount of magic deployed by the Dark Lord was slowly increasing, while the precious spellcasters of the Legions were being whittled away.

With Terenquar, Kosaktor and now Silaenarwae now also committed to war against the Dark Lord, Fulminis knew the time had come to provide a more united front. Until now, there had been no official co-operation between the two groups (though some at the local level around Confluentium Grandis). He returned to Nepitar and embarked on an ambitious project, to call a conference of all the kings and queens of the Northern Nations to create an alliance against the Dark Lord. But this was not without serious setbacks. He had to fight serious opposition from the senate. Many of the corrupt senators still did not truly believe, safe in their own little world in Nepitar, the Dark Lord was as great a threat as he was.

One proposal, made by Senator Vius Garanian was to attempt negotiating a peace, allowing the Dark Lord to retain what cities he had taken. Vius’ reasoning was that it would be less expensive to write off the lost ground than to fight a continued war. He even suggested that a mutually beneficial trade be set up. In hindsight, such a move would have been disastrous. There is no doubt the Dark lord would have agreed to such a proposal. It would have given him more time to recoup his losses, fortify his positions, and allowed him to commit more resources to Terenquar, with the result that Maearrlae and Terenquar would have almost certainly fallen, and likely Kosaktor with it.

Fulminis and both his consuls (his son Kesucius Avunius Mallio and Dacien Herpanus Serpellis) rejected the proposal utterly, to some unrest in the senate. Fulminis stuck to his beliefs, and dispatched his messengers. It was inevitable that the Dark Lord would find out about the event, but despite some serious efforts on his part, all the messengers, one way or another, got through. Fulminis was granted audience to each of the kings, and spent most of Vacast and Vendus meeting with them, travelling mostly by magic. It was a measure of how important he believed the matter to be that he choose to use magical resources for such journeys. He had previously preferred to use the magical assets that were his due as Emperor not for himself, but to support his army in the field.

Fulminis’ impassioned pleas rang true in the ears of all the leaders of the north and even isolated Tuozin agreed to send a delegate. The conference was to be held in Nepitar (chosen because it was believed to be the most accessible and defensible city to choose from) on the 19th of Fabe.

With no chance now to prevent the conference, the Dark Lord did everything in his power to disrupt it and Fulminis had his hands full dealing with interior threats from both the Dark Lord and his own senators. He prevailed, however, and all the delegates arrived. There were representatives from all the Northern Nations, including the King of Galause, the Queens and Kings of the Elves, all three Dwarf Kings, the Pharaoh of Deshraos and the Sultan of Alhar. The Tuozin King did not come in person, but sent his son. There were even several of the chiefs of the Triack Plainsmen and Kirochovin Nomads. Such a gathering was not seen again until the second Conference of Kings in 2540 under Imperator Kelipus Vantus.

Three days before the conference was due to start, the Dark Lord made one last ditch attempt. The new First Shadow Fleet, under the command of Admiral Damovk Furlisstor launched a night raid on Nepitar itself, striking down the Corbis estuary and right into the massive docks at Nepitar. This daring raid was masterfully command by Furlisstor and achieved almost complete surprise. No-one hand been expecting an attack as audacious as this, and so Nepitar was not well-protected. Up until this point, the Dark Lord had made little attempt to wage a naval campaign, and the existence of the Isle of Issid base and the Akovombisi shipyards were unknown. The naval portion of the engagement was flawless, and is regarded as one of the high-points of Furlisstor’s brilliant career. The marine landings did not fare as well; despite reaching the Imperial Palace itself, the Dark Army forces were eventually beaten back. None of the delegates were killed, some though were wounded in the fighting. As the tide of battle turned, Furlisstor again proved his brilliance by systematically neutralising all the shore defences that were brought to bear on his ships, and once the last survivors of the raid reached the relative safety of his ships, he disengaged and fled back down the Corbis to the Illiusan Sea without losing a single vessel; all under cover of darkness. The First Shadow Fleet even later made it back to its base on the Isle of Issid safely, despite no less than three attempts by the Validus Navy and then an allied fleet Deshrish/Alhara fleet, to bring it to battle.

Nevertheless, the raid was ultimately a failure. It served as a wake-up call to all in Nepitar that their city was not safely removed from the war. Resistance to Fulminis crumbled overnight. Further, it was the final clincher in the minds of the delegates that the alliance must happen. Three day later, as scheduled, the first Conference of Kings went ahead and all the Northern Nations declared war on the Dark Lord as a united front. Chief among Fulminis’ concessions was that Validuslum was to grant free passage to all allied military forces through its lands, finally allowing Silaenarwae and Tulacbar to join the war fully. Mobilisation began immediately, and reinforcements began to stream south.

On the eastern front, the fighting around Firrnyr was intensifying. The Silver Elf army swept down to join the fighting, and with it, the Elf/Dwarf alliance was to deal a crushing blow at the Battle of Sindridae Fields and utterly crush the 26th and 29th Shadow Guard armies as they attempted to march to relieve Firrnyr on the 28th of Vacast.

Despite several attempts to storm the walls, and dwindling supplies now bolstered solely by magic, Lavasier S’Drassa managed to grimly hold out against the besieging forces, until the 17th of Corbune, when the Elf/Dwarf alliance managed to storm the walls. S’drassa was killed in the fighting. Firrnyr was largely captured, though there was still considerable resistance inside the walls. S’Drassa’s contingency plans ensured that, even with his death, Firrnyr continued to put up a fight.

This victory was short lived however. The Dark Lord knew now that with the Northern Nations united against him, he was in a very untenable position. If Firrnyr fell, control of the region would fall to the Northern Nations and Kalavokra itself would come under heavy attack. Confluentium Grandis would also be put at risk from a renewed Terenquari attack.

So, for the first time since the Dark Wars began, the Dark Lord himself took command of the elite Shadow Lord Army and covered the 300 miles to Firrnyr in record time. The Dark Lord himself to supplied food and water on the march and used his magic to keep the troops fresh, continuously moving up and down the marching line. The remaining supplies were either carried tireless Undead on the march, or by rapid point-to-point transfer by Doom Stingers covered by Skalegor and as many proto-Gagana as they could muster. This allowed the army to march literally non-stop from Xooruun Kovytorr to the borders, only slowing down to a pace that was still extremely fast for a marching army, but which allowed the scouts to ensure they didn’t run into any ambushes. As a result, the Shadow Lord Army reached Firrnyr in only seven days, was still in a fresh condition and able to engage in battle immediately. Between Kalavokra and Firrnyr, the army managed just over 30 miles per day, an astonishing speed for an army in combat conditions, but pales into comparison to the 180 miles it covered in four days between Xooruun Kovytorr and Kalavokra.

The Elf/Dwarf alliance army’s previous victories were starting to take their toll. The attrition of the previous battles, as well as the shock of the speed of approach meant they were simply unprepared. With the Dark Lord in personal command at the forefront of his army, the Elf/Dwarf army was simply swept aside and scattered. About a third was able to flee back to Maearrlae mostly intact, and survivors continued to dribble back in small groups, but as an army, it was completely destroyed. It is estimated approximately half to two-thirds of the remaining army was killed in the attack and the following pursuit. But now the Dark Lord had to stop and rebuild Firrnyr. Even with relatively minimal casualties to the Shadow Lord Army, the Dark Lord was unwilling to pursue the retreating force, as he needed to consolidate his position and conserve his forces. With himself and the Shadow Lord Army in the field, the Dark Lord was effectively down to his reserves. This battle also marked the last time the proto-Gagana were fielded in any number. In the end, the stress of the march and following battle simply proved too great for their too-quickly aging bodies, and most of them had died before the end of the year. The lack of an acceptable counter to the Gryphons and other aerial cavalry was to have a noted effect on the Dark Armies for the remainder of the Fulminic War.

By the end of Nepitus, the Northern Nations had renewed assaults on Vitarnium and Confluentium Grandis. The 21st Shadow Guard Army was forced back to Vitarnium. Though both cities held, it became increasingly clear that even the Dark Lord’s rapidly replenishing troops could not hold back the entire weight of the Northern nations all at once. The situation became increasingly precarious over the winter of 2485-6 as the Northern Nations held their sieges overwinter, thanks to a mild winter in the north; while the winter in the Dark Lands brought especially violent storms and sandstorms, making it much harder to resupply. It also forced the Dark Lord’s fleets to remain in port, though the navies of Alhar and Deshraos fared little better. The balance of power was steadily tipping towards the North, despite the setback at Firrnyr.

The Scattering

The Dark Lord had to come up with a new strategy. The poor farmlands of the Dark Lands and Sokointulo were at the very limit of their productivity, and the Conquered Realm, a thousand miles from Firrnyr, was just too far away. He needed to be able to either divide the Northern Nation’s efforts, or expand his own supply base. The second was looking increasingly unlikely. To the west of the Dark Lands, and across the Bleak Mountains east of Yalaer-Saka were untamed plains that might be suitable, but colonising them would be a massive effort in and of itself. This line of thinking led him to one of the most controversial and far-reaching strategies of the entire war, one that would change the very face of the world. The Scattering.

In essence, the plan was simple. Instead of relying on breeding new troops in the confines of the Dark Lands, the Dark Lord would spread his creations throughout the lands in small tribal-sized groups, to establish their own settlements. The Dark Lord hoped that if he could scatter enough of them, enough pockets would survive in the wild places that the Northern Nations would not be able to wipe them all out. His minions would eventually grow to the point where they would threaten outlying lands, forcing the Northern Nations to spread their military forces out on more policing duties. In essence, he would be creating dozens of new, hostile barbarian tribes in the territory of his enemy. It would also hopefully slack the pressure off his supply infrastructure, since the tribes would become self-sufficient. As the Dark Lord was reported to have said “I shall scatter my Orcs as the fungus scatters it’s spores. And though many shall fail, in the precious few that do not, my aim will be realised.”
It was a dangerous gamble. The Orc-Kin and many of this other creations had the breeding speed and fertility to pull this off, though most of his other races did not. He would have to rely on the Dark Elves and Intulo and his limited numbers of Men and Undead to hold off the Northern Nations, while the bulk of his Orc-Kin breeding stock was parcelled up and sent out into the wild. It would leave the Dark Armies dangerously low on resources and manpower, and with no reserves if all went astray. But, as always, the Dark Lord took the long view. Even if he lost a lot of ground now, if this strategy could be made to work, it would have knock-on effects for years and centuries to come. As history has sadly proven, he was right.

Leaving Firrnyr, the Dark Lord returned to Xooruun Kovytorr, as again this project would take a great deal of his time. The first scattering began in early spring. The Scattering was at its most intense during the period of 2486-2494, but it continued throughout the war thereafter, with standing orders that scattered elements were to “go wild”. The Dark Lord dispatched groups in all manner of fashions. Some, the most stealthy and well-organised groups, slipped up to attempt to cross the Vendir and later up the Depilutia. Some were deposited via long-range teleportation into wilderness areas, sometimes even blindly. Others were sent out east and west from the Dark Lands to make their slow way north through the wilds.

Akovombisi’s shipyards were temporarily converted into colony-ship manufacturers, and in late 2487, hundreds of ships set sail, to attempt to make landing on the Illiusan coast or to sail all around Deshraos and up the west coast and thence to land in the Frozen Peaks. This mass exodus continued for some years, and the fate of many ships is unknown. Some, certainly reached their destinations; many more were lost at seas or destroyed. There is some evidence some may have been blown as far north and west as the North Islands or even the Great Continent.

Many, if not most, of these scattering groups were all killed or simply failed. It took until late 2487 before the Northern Nations finally realised the objective of the small bands they’d been eliminating for the past two years; mostly from the capture of one colony vessel by an Alhara ship. Even then, it seemed like a simple haemoharging of resources and it was not for another twenty years or so before the true scope of the Scattering made itself know. By then, just enough of the scattered groups had disappeared and settled that the plan had worked; and they were now beginning to strike out at villages, like bands of bandits. Before long, these ‘native’ Orc-Kin and their ilk became just another fact of life. There was also little they could have done about it in any case – the Dark Lord had essentially treated these groups as disposable, so aside from storming the breeding pens of the Dark Lands, they could have done little to stem the tide.

To cover the loss of reinforcements that his Orc-Kin primarily would have provided, the Dark Lord pulled all his remaining legions on reserve from throughout all his lands and brought them north to reinforce the Dark Lands and allowing the current defending forces to move north. This alone would have left the troubled Conquered Realm in a dangerous state, giving them ample chance to rise up again. But the Dark Lord had a simple solution to this; “conscript” as many of the inhabitants as possible. These conscripts – little better than slaves – would be brought in to replace his current slaves; mostly weak and worthless Orc-Kin. The Orc-Kin would be either sent north to fight or out with the colony groups. Eventually, the conscripts would be sent north to fight themselves, as the next generations of Ork-Kin slaves (who were generally more reliable and controllable) replaced them in turn.

The Conquered Realm was virtually denuded of people of working age (and the Dark Lord took nearly as many women as men). Whole villages were marched off, never to return, and those left were barely at subsistence level. Indeed, this would have been an open invitation to sweep into the Conquered Realm and seize it, had there been any nation in a position to do so. But, as it was, bounded by the impassable Barrier Peaks to the east, the Southern Jungle to the south, the jungles and the swamps to the east and by the Sokointulo desert to the north, the Conquered Realm was relatively safe. But it would be decades before it recovered, and only really had done so by the time the Iron Master came to power after the end Dark Wars, some two hundred years later.

It was a radical departure from the Dark Lord’s reliance on professional armies. But the Dark Lord did not really expect much of these slave-hordes. They were merely there to get bodies into the field and fool the Northern Nations into thinking he had larger forces than he truly did, and to provide his better forces with something to absorb some of the pressure. By using Orc-Kin slaves, he could continue to seem to have endless supplies of Orc-Kin, while hopefully keeping the Northern Nations from wondering where his real Orc-Kin troops were. That the deception lasted long enough to give the Scattering a good couple of years before it’s true purpose came to light was proof it worked.

The Siege of Confluentium Grandis

With the 2486 spring weather being more favourable, Confluentium Grandis’ relief force and renewed supplies from Leventium allowed it to remain strong and unbroken. It’s defence was assured when the Northern Nations made a disastrously mishandled attempt to storm the defences. General Saiylia Brallitae, the Terenquari in command of Terenquari army in the Confluentium Grandis front had been muscled aside for the more political Elf Lord Maeldrian Gellaborni, newly arrived from Silaenarwae. A political assignment – showing even the wisdom of the Elves fails sometimes – Maeldrian had never commanded as large a force as was present, and had no experience working with other races. Putting him in command of a force that consisted of Grass Elves, Silver Elves, Men, Halflings and Dwarves was simply a foolish idea. He thought little of his nonElven allies, little more about his “barbarian” Grass Elf cousins and was highly derisive of his enemy. Worse, he was so set in his ways and stubborn, he outright refused to listen to the advice of his subordinates . He seemed to especially dislike Saiylia, and made it a point to do the opposite of whatever she suggested, frequently implying he knew better than some “barbarian elfmaid barely old enough to crawl, let alone command.” As a result, there was much discontent in the allied camp.

The truth was, Maeldrian was using his superior attitude as a shield to mask the fact that inside, he really had no idea what to do. He had, in fact, never undertaken any kind of siege operations. He was content to wait out the Dark Army until it starved to death, convinced in his own mind all he had to do was sit and wait. His preparations were minimal for additional attacks, and he showed a total lack or regard for deploying his reinforcements. He even redeployed Saiylia’s existing troops from their entrenched positions simply because she was the one that put them there.

When the first load of supplies made it past his half-hearted river defences, his response was anger. It meant that now, he would have to do something other than wait. He immediately ordered an attack on the walls by the Validus XIX Legion’s V though VII Cohorts, demanding they destroy the fortified river gates. To their credit, the Legion gamely made an attempt, but came under heavy fire from the walls. Ignoring the increasingly desperate Saiylia’s call to send support, he waited until the cohorts were forced to abort the attack, having suffered considerable casualties. Tersely, he ordered another group to attack the same point, this time a Dwarven unit. This time, however, one of the Halfling Auxilia archer cohorts from the Halfling II Legion went to support them of its own accord, to Maeldrian’s fury. He gathered about a contingent of Elven soldiers and stormed over to the Halflings, demanding they withdrew. After a tense shouting match, the Halfling Centurion finally pulled back, leaving the Dwarf unit to suffer the same fate as the Legions before them.

At this point, Maeldrian seemed to lose it and ordered attack after attack at random points on the wall. The defenders, under the steady and unflappable command of Intulo General Sarkossi Ffesskat, deployed to meet each strike with skill, while the morale of the Northern Nations units dropped steadily. Maeldrian rode around the fortifications, issuing orders to all and sundry with little rhyme or reason. Eventually, it became obvious Maeldrian had no idea what he was doing, but by then, most of the forces was committed to the attack. He seemed to live a charmed life, to boot, as several of his aides and officers of the units were killed around him by snipers. It would later transpire that, due to his distinctive red cloak and refusal to crouch down or take cover as it was “undignified”, the Hobgoblin snipers were using him as a spotting target. Sarkossi, displaying a surprising grasp of emotion for an Intulo, had specifically ordered that Maeldrian was not himself to be shot, as he was dealing more damage alive than he would dead to both morale and command and control.

Finally, Maeldrian screaming about the incompetence of all around him, reputedly frothing at the mouth, charged at the walls himself, as if he could single-handedly take the city. He made it all the way to the walls (though the few soldiers that ran after him were not so lucky), and fruitlessly hacked at it for several moments before one of the defenders apparently took pity on him and dropped a rock onto his head, killing him instantly. One suspects Maeldrian would have been furious to have been killed by such a “barbaric” weapon.

With now no commander at all – though some might argue that this was an improvement – the allied attack simply petered out. They had made few gains for heavy casualties, including Saiylia being wounded by a poisoned arrow. With their general dead, their next in command out of commission and morale at rock-bottom, the allied force fell to the command of Legate Sulius Marusin, who felt he had no choice but to withdraw his battered force to a safer location. And so Confluentium Grandis withstood the siege with fairly minimal casualties.

The Final Stages of the Fulminic War

The siege at Vitarnium remained stalemated throughout 2486. The Northern Nations could not break the walls, nor starve out the defenders, but neither could the Dark Armies break the siege. There were about four separate battles in and around the city, both ultimately, both sides held their positions.

In Firrnyr, the Shadow Lord Army spent the year repairing the damage to the city, and with the destruction of the alliance army, Terenquar was left unable to launch another offensive. The bulk of the first load of the slave-hordes was dispatched to Firrnyr, to support the Shadow Lord Army. With some quite literal arrow-fodder to round out its bulk, the Shadow Lord Army was able to march on Maearrlae and besiege it for the third time in 2487, leaving Firrnyr in the capable hands of the re-formed 1st High Army from Yalaer-Saka. The Dark Lord never had any real expectation of capturing the city – with the poor quality slave-hordes counteracting the Shadow Lord Army’s greater professionalism – but it kept the Northern Nation under pressure and pushed them back to the defensive in the east.

Meanwhile, the allies renewed their assault on Confluentium Grandis, but this time were halted by the inconclusive Battle of Hadri Bridge, twenty miles north of the city. Despite halting the allied advanced on the city, this battle cost General Sarkossi casualties he could not easily replace with the scattering in progress. It did allow him some opportunity to seed some more bands while they held the river, before having to fall back to the city.

The noose around Vitarnium continued to tighten. The Northern Nations managed to prevent it from receiving supplies from Leventium and once again, stopped the bulk of the reinforcements from reaching the city. Fulminis himself commanded a significant victory over the newly arrived 42nd Brigade, trapping it against the river and wiping it out in all but name. One brigade, lead by Skalegor, made it through, but even with his leadership, it was not enough. Vitarnium finally succumbed at the turn of winter 2487 to a dawn attack which the weakened defenders simply could not stave off. Skalegor himself was driven off by the elite Golden Sun Gryphon Wing and seriously wounded, though it cost them four of their best flight commanders. The rest of the defenders were not so lucky and were completely wiped out or fled into the wilderness.

The Great Road to the river Wrelm was completed in the fall of 2487. It’s original purpose had fallen somewhat to the wayside by last’ year’s disastrous reverses, but now it allowed the Dark Armies a chance to strike at Ciracan and relieve some of the pressure on the Vendir battlefront. Unfortunately, the cost of the Scattering was starting to tell. The attack launched in late winter of 2488 by Leventium down the road was met and soundly defeated by the Ciracan army. The Ciracs fought their way wall the way down to Leventium, arriving at much the same time as the victorious allied army under Panesis Fulminis reached it by river. The Dark Armies fought for every step of the way, and due to the very poor summer weather, it took until autumn before Leventium was finally brought to siege.

Maearrlae was left to its fate in the east, while the Terenquar under the recovered General Saiylia Brallitae once again attacked Confluentium Grandis. The fighting was inconclusive, and although the Dark armies lost ground, they held the east of the city against the attacks, though it cost them several slave-hordes. Maearrlae once again proved its mettle by solidly holding out against the Shadow Lord Army and inflicting huge casualties on the ill-trained slave-hordes.

Despite winning a victory at the Battle of Quadi Cove, poor sailing weather over much of 2486-7 prevented the First Shadow Fleet from achieving any more success. Damovk Furlisstor spent most of the rest of the Fulminic War holed up on the Isle of Issid or overseeing the construction of new vessels in Akovombisi. The First’s main duty was escorting Scattering vessels along the coasts. After the Battle of Quadi Cove, there would not be another serious naval engagement until after the Respite.

The Battle of Leventium

By now, the Dark Lord was in dire straits. While the Scattering was starting to work, it would be years before it could pay off. The losses his forces were suffering were now mounting up too quickly, and with the fall of Vitarnium and all of its veteran units, the path was open for Fulminis’ army, now veteran itself, to crush Leventium. Leventium was well-fortified, as it had not been attacked in recent years, but it could not hold out alone. With Confluentium Grandis looking more and more precarious, the Dark Lord was looking at a total collapse of the Vendir line and defeat. If Leventium fell, Confluentium Grandis would not be far behind, and all the gains of the last twenty years would be for nought. So he made one last great effort to save the city. In the dead of night in the midwinter of 2488, the Shadow Lord Army silently slipped away from the siege or Maearrlae, leaving only the confused slave-hordes behind. The defenders quickly cottoned-on and within a few days, Maearrlae was again uncontested.

Meanwhile, the Dark Lord gathered all his remaining forces into the 6th Grand Army, and cutting the Scattering down to a mere 80% of the previous year’s capacity, and sent them north under the command of the Lich Vixitak Bralklast to relieve Leventium. It was an impressive force, more so because the dreaded Fire Drake Gaxhadathiss had been sent with them to command the air forces.

The large Northern Nation army quickly detected the approach and crossed the river into intercept. The stage was set for the Battle of Leventium, which was the largest single engagement fought so far in the war. Nearly 150,000 troops on each side entered the fray. The battle was joined at dawn on a cold winter morning on the 30th of Primune, 2489, while frost still hardened the ground The battle lasted most of the day and into the night. Casualties were high on both sides. Ultimately, the lack of veteran troops on the side of the Dark Armies proved their undoing, and the tide slowly turned. The climax of the battle was when Imperator Fulminis and the Praetorian Guard were engaged by Gaxhadathiss. Despite being mortally wounded by the dragons’ maw, Fulminis made one last cry “Glory to the Empire and the North!” and struck the dragon a single mighty blow from his enchanted blade Seco Fulmen. The blow itself was reportedly heard as far away as 100 yards, and the ensuing thunderous explosion of electricity was seen and felt by the Northern reserves on the far side Leventium. Gaxhadathiss was killed instantly. The Emperor died with a smile on his face.

When Vixitak was killed by the Silaenari mage Telisalillia Mephadyll mere minutes later, in nearly as spectacular fashion, the crumbling morale of the 6th Grand Army finally broke and the battle turned into a rout. The Northern Army pursued and most of the Dark Army was completely destroyed. Not content with this victory on the field, Legate Kesucius Avunius Mallio, the Emperor’s son, pressed the attack into Leventium and stormed the demoralised city. With nowhere to run, the remains of the 2nd Grand Army were also eradicated. It is estimated that close to 200,000 lives were lost in the battle of Leventium between both sides. It was a decisive victory for the North and a disaster for the Dark Army.

The events of the following year almost seem superfluous to the battle. In the summer of 2489, Kesucius Avunius Mallio was declared Emperor and became Imperator Caesar Kesucius Mallio. He lead again lead the army east and retook Confluentium Grandis. General Sarkossi Ffesskat put up a fair fight, but was simply too heavily out-numbered. As was the fate of the 1st, 2nd and 6th Grand Army, the 3rd was wiped out, though Sarkossi managed to manoeuvre a sizable force (some say a battalion, others say most of a brigade) through and escape into the north-west wilderness. Sarkossi himself fought to the last breath, as he considered it was “not logical” to surrender. It was perhaps fitting that General Saiylia was to strike the final blow against the person she’d been pitted against for over twenty years.

By this point, however, the Northern Nation army was itself starting to wear down. Nevertheless, Emperor Mallio made one last effort, moving down to attack the fortress-city of Balusalo. Balusalo proved to be simply too well defended and the presence of the Shadow Lord Army on the walls prevented the Northern Nations from progressing further. The fact that it was built above the side of the crater meant it was realistically impossible to surround, as it controlled the only viable decent to the crater floor. Mallio realised that, without having a steady supply line himself, he would simple be unable to take the fortress. After only five days of desultory assaults, the allied commanders agreed that the fortress city was simply beyond their means. They withdrew, although not before organising the demolition of the Vendir end of the Great Roads to Vitarnium, Leventium and Confluentium Grandis. However, the reconnaissance data they built on the fortress-city was still to prove of use decades later, during the final assault on the Dark Lands in the closing days of the Dark Wars.

The Battle of Leventium brought the first round of the Dark Wars to a close. The Dark Lord still held Firrnyr, but all his other holdings north of the Dark Lands had been retaken. Five of the six Grand Armies that had been fielded in the last period of twenty years had been destroyed, three of them in totality.

But all was not lost. The Dark Lord himself was very much unhurt, and the best of his best, the Shadow Lord Army, had only grown stronger. The Scattering had begun and would continue at a steady pace. The first generation of the Gagana were finally coming close to age, and they had none of the problems of the proto-Gagana. The Kobolds, too were now entering adulthood. The Dark Lord losses were heavy, but not insurmountable. But it was not for no reason the next round of the Dark Wars were to be called the Orc Wars, for with the losses to the Intulo, Dark Elf, Dark Dwarf and Men, a greater burden than ever fell upon the Orc-Kin to take up the slack. While they did not mature much quicker than other races, their higher fertility and low infant mortality rate – among Orcs especially – made them ideal for the task at hand and placed them completely at the forefront of the next phase of the war.

The Respite

In the aftermath of the Battle of Leventium, the longest period of relative peace in the Dark Wars occurred. The Respite, as it came to be known, lasted six years. Both sides recovered and repaired. The Scattering continued steadily until mid-2494, when the Dark Lord began to rebuild his armies in earnest. Scattered skirmishes around the Illiusan Sea and Firrnyr continued to occur, but no major battles were fought.

In Validuslum, Imperator Mallio began to implement major reforms to clean up the corruption from the senate and allow greater equality for both genders and all races. Though some of these reforms lapsed at the end of the Dark Wars, most survived and are the largest reason Mallio is considered one of the three great emperors of the period.

The period also allowed the Northern Nations some time to lose a little of their ardour. The Tuozin, Triacks and Kirochovins quickly left the alliance to attend to their home matters. Deshraos also lost most of its interest, and though it continued to partake in the sharing of intelligence, they did not add any further military contributions. After several years of peace, the North began to relax. With the Scattering groups not having fully established yet, with so crushing a victory achieved, the bulk of the populace began to drop their guard and relax. Fortunately, Imperator Mallio and the Terenquari maintained perspective, but as the Respite drew to a close, they looked increasingly paranoid and alarmist. But still they kept their watch to the south.

So the next stage of the war, the massive naval invasion of the west cost of the Illiusan Sea in 2496, was to come as a total surprise to everyone.

And that is the end of part 1. Part 2 is yet unwritten, so it might be awhile before I do anymore.

2010-07-14, 10:15 PM
Your Dark Lord spends a lot of time defending himself and restoring land and moving populations around so they can eat better. Really, he doesn't sound like that bad of a guy. :smallsmile:

One has to ask, though, why he was messing around a spell to defend his land . Given that after 450 miles of his country was blown to smithereens he was still capable of mounting an invasion of the north, how much stronger must his country have been before the explosion? Unless the radiated Orc-kin were really that much better than whatever he had before.

What I can't figure out is where the magic users are. How does an imperator die of a heart-attack? Weren't there any 5th level clerics around to cast Remove (Heart) Disease? Didn't anybody think to Scry the legion's landing zone? Or Divine the advance of the enemy army?

I am also curious what the snipers are using. Even a high-level long range spell actually has a pretty lame range compared to a good sniper rifle.

Aotrs Commander
2010-07-15, 04:29 AM
Your Dark Lord spends a lot of time defending himself and restoring land and moving populations around so they can eat better. Really, he doesn't sound like that bad of a guy. :smallsmile:

Don't mistake lack of incompetance for moralality! Starving and abused soldiers make poor combatats (see the performance of the slave-hordes.) The Dark Lord is basically someone who's metaphorically read the Evil Overlord's Handbook. He's so dangerous simply because he's not stupid enough to waste personel and randomly kill people for failing him. I point you also to the Conquored Realm's near-total depopulation into slavery. He is not a nice guy, merely one who doesn't kill for craps and giggles.

One has to ask, though, why he was messing around a spell to defend his land . Given that after 450 miles of his country was blown to smithereens he was still capable of mounting an invasion of the north, how much stronger must his country have been before the explosion? Unless the radiated Orc-kin were really that much better than whatever he had before.

Ah, remember than before the Dark Cataclysm, there WERE no Orc-Kin. It was the after-effects of that disaster which allowed him to learn how to create and modify races. Had he suceeded, KwaUbumnyama, Satranath and Sokokaibra would have been more-or-less unassailable, but he would only have had unaugmented humans and elves as his minions. (Oddly enough, he's never modified the Intulo. Then again, as he has ruled them for far longer than anyone else, I guess he thinks they are perfectly fine the way they are.) He also wouldn't have had any Doom Stingers, or Gagana (though the North wouldn't have had Gryphons, either). And without the impetus to research it to preserve his last human servants, it is unlikely Black Necromancy would ever have been researched, so there would be no Liches, either.

What I can't figure out is where the magic users are. How does an imperator die of a heart-attack? Weren't there any 5th level clerics around to cast Remove (Heart) Disease? Didn't anybody think to Scry the legion's landing zone? Or Divine the advance of the enemy army?

One, Remove Disease (nor Heal for that matter) can't heal old age anyway. And a lot of the overpowered or "story-breaking" spells like Remove Disease either don't exist or have much more stringent limitations on them in this world. Teleportation, for one. Large amounts of matter (i.e. rock) block teleportation without basically a beacon (so dungeons have a reason to exist!), and important facilities are mostly teleport-screened.

Kyrius Perturbion, briefly mentioned above, is actually most famous for his teleporter raids around 2526. (In which the PCs stumbled upon in the first adventure I set in that period.) Basically because it was something that was really, really hard to do.

Scrying is itself a dangerous and difficult task in a high-magic environment like the Dark Wars, because both sides are scrying and counter-scrying, and mostly cancel each other out, save for the odd bit of luck. Bascially it boils down to a ECM battle between both sides. Further hampered by the fact that the gods are trying to help their wordly followers and being countered by the Dark Lord personally. (The Dark Lord is actually older than the gods - which is why he wnats them dead, he sees them as usurpers to his world - and fought in the Xakkath Demon Wars that occurred ten thousand years1 ago and spanned the galaxy. So he knows exactly how to fight that sort of war.)

Also, the amount of magic deployed slowly increased as the war progressed. There as a lot more of it in the late war than the early. And, of course, everyone knew to target the spellcasters first, which meant far less would ever get to high level! (And without Wind Wall or any other "I-screw-you-archer/fighter" spell available in the world, casters are much more vulnerable, especially to ranged fire.)

I am also curious what the snipers are using. Even a high-level long range spell actually has a pretty lame range compared to a good sniper rifle.

Longbows, mostly. Probably with suitable enchantments (and Far Shot!) Certainly, the battles would not have been fought at firearm ranges, so no, they aren't close to sniper rifle ranges (or laser cannons or what have you!) They just aren't that advanced yet. Hobgoblins, designed to be crack shots, have the visual accuity to make the shots at that kind of range. Plus the snipers would be high-level characters.

Also, a big point worth noting is that D&D 3.5 only emulates Dreemaenhyll's "real world", it doesn't totally define it. So things happen that would not be covered by or simply can't happen in the 3.5 rules (aside soley from "DM fiat").

(This is why the Shadow Lord Army's march to Firrnyr is so spectacular. In the real world, armies of the period marched a handful of miles per day, normally, and horses march about the same or less, as they don't have the endurance to manage much; and even then you bascially have to feed them on rocket-fuel. D&D's overland speed based on Speed is actually cringe-worthy to me!)

1Dreemaenhyll is based on a realistic timescale. So ten thousands years predates pretty much everything. It happened about the time copper working was discovered, and before the domesticatation of most farm animals, let alone anything else! I have done the technological advancement as close to reasonably possible to Earth as I can research. The Dark Wars, for example, pre-date plate armour. "Present" Dreemaenhyll is approximately 1300AD in technological terms. Steel, of course, barely exists (and only then because of the fantasy element of the Dwarves) aside from "Damascus steel" type ready-made deposits; there are no oil lanterns, only shieled lamps and so on.