While the army rests, the Heliopticon is busy. Light and dark flicker, bringing terse messages from the spires of the storm-tossed southern coast. From the fishing town of Elos comes news of a major raiding force turned aside by a warband of Imperial heroes. While the town suffered some damage, the orcs were prevented from burning it to the ground. The remaining fishing boats and trading ships of Elos take shelter from the magical storms in their deep harbour, but with their spyglasses they keep as close an eye as they can on the orc force. They report that the majority of the Lasambrian ground forces have made a disciplined withdrawal back to their ships.
The Grendel vessels have set their sails - some crimson, some emerald-green - and swiftly departed for open waters. They are not quick enough to outrun the wild Spring magic already taking hold across the southern coast of Urizen - some of their sails are tattered and torn by the time they pass beyond the ken of the watchers at Elos.
Not all the barbarian forces have departed. The Winter Solstice surprise attack left the orcs in possession of several southern spires. Rousting these remaining orcs would provide little challenge for an Imperial army , but while they remain the southern orcs have a foothold in Naris. Should the Grendel return, the forces left behind would aid them in seizing a beachhead here.
The main focus of the remaining forces appears to be the spire of Evenstar - the hospital where Urizen practitioners of Spring and Day magic worked their magical arts to treat the sick. This spire fell to the barbarians during the Winter solstice - one last desperate flickering of the Heliopticon marking its fall. The gate has fallen. The Grendel forces appear to have left Redoubt. While they do not control a region , their attack has established a foothold in Naris.
It would be a simple matter for an Imperial army to use an appropriate attack order to clear the region of the remaining orcs, but while they remain they will make it easier for the Grendel to take a beachhead here should they return. In campaign terms, victory points accrued toward conquering a region do not go away naturally and count toward future attempts to take that region.
Victory points are only removed if a campaign army attacks the conquered areas. Bound with a powerful enchantment woven from Spring magic by the vates of the Voice of the Quiet Forest, they pass from the battlefield of Western Scout into the heart of the Westwood , bound for West Ranging. Behind them, they leave chaos, and dead Navarr.
Two hundred thorns sacrifice their lives to slow the orc advance long enough for the army to gather at the ruins of the Jotun -burnt steading of Hidden Walk; without the magic of the Quiet Forest, many more would have died. Yet as their new protective enchantment takes hold, the hungry dead bound to the Navarr army are let loose. A thousand spirit-ridden husks, a thousand slaughtered Navarr given a chance at vengeance against their murderers, a thousand winter horrors set free to follow their true nature Unleashed, their furious hunger is indiscriminate - they fall on their former brothers and sisters with the same abominable relish with which they assail the orcs.
While the potent magic woven to protect the Black Thorns blunts the worst of the attack, the last huddled groups following the Black Thorns through the Paths bear savage wounds, marks of the gluttonous hunger of the creatures they have unleashed. Leaving the Jotun behind to face the unbound wrath of the dead, the army passes into the vallorn -choked Westwood.
Shrouded with the Night magic woven into the pathway, four and a half thousand Navarr walk into the very jaws of their greatest foe. Through the asphyxiating miasma they walk. Through the green hell that is the riotous depth of the Doom of Terunael.
User:Narfil Palùrfalas/Fanfictions/Wind of Fire, Oath of Blood pt 2
No thorn who makes this journey will ever forget it - it is one thing to range into the vallorn as scouts, as small bands; quite another to march an army into the deeps. The magic protects those who keep to the path - but the journey is not without its dangers. Stray too far to the left or the right; miss one of the boundary stones; fail to pass through one of the arches Yet, still, the Black Thorns are protected; the magic of Spring can bring terrible death, but it also brings life. Those injured by Jotun axes, or torn by unliving claws, quickly recover from their wounds.
While the paths do not lie along a trod , the enchanted soldiers find it easy to push themselves forward. Anything to get to the far end of the Paths as soon as possible. As soon as possible The trees grow impossibly thick in the Westwood, blocking out the sky. The fog of the miasma chokes everything. Even at noon, little light penetrates the canopy, leaving everything shrouded in twilight. At night The plants and insects near the paths possess an eerie phosphorescence, rendering the depths of midnight into that same encompassing twilight.
Objectively, it takes a little under a week to pass from south to north. Even measured in sleep, it is difficult to track exactly how long the journey takes. One soldier may be famished, thirsty, stumbling near exhaustion while her companion is satiated, full of energy. It makes little sense. Eventually, though, the Black Thorns emerge coughing, blinking, into the southern woodlands of Jotun-held West Ranging. They take one night to rest in the ruins of Silent Stand steading.
And then they attack. We have an opportunity, cousins, to make the Jotun pay for their invasion of Kahraman and the brutality they have shown us. March swiftly to join our Navarri cousins and make the Jotun bleed. As the Black Thorns strike from Silent Stand into the forests on the southern border of northern Liathaven, a second Imperial force drives into the territory from the north. The Freeborn of the Fire of the South have made their own march, north out of Kahraman , through Tassato , through Upwold , and Mitwold , and down into the marshes of Bregasland.
A heroic charge, a testament to the ferocity and the stamina of the soldiers of the Bay of Catazar. They, too, rest for a single night after their mad rush, a sea of rainbow tents along the causeway east of Sallow , and then into West Ranging with the aid of the flat-bottomed boats of the marshfolk. The Jotun garrisons are alert for a potential invasion, but they are looking north - not south. When the Freeborn enter the woodlands, they are ready for them, ready to fight - but not half so ready for the Navarr who strike from the south, from out of the vallorn.
The first engagement is a rout - the orcs fall back as soon as they see the Navarr, clearly mistaking them for some new horror out of the Westwood. They rally quickly, however, once it becomes clear that they are facing a mortal threat. The defenders are outclassed, but they are stubborn. The two Imperial armies exchange messengers, and moving quickly and with sure purpose meet up and turn their attention to the last Jotun holdouts.
They hold nothing back, but in the end it appears that the long years the Jotun have had to prepare for a serious Imperial assault have worked in their favour. The Imperial forces have taken most of the region, but there are still pockets of orc resistance. Worse, as news spreads of the Imperial attack, Jotun bands from Liath Ring and Liavens Glen begin to harry the Imperials from the east.
The Imperials fail to secure the region, but they are very close. The Jotun still control the lightly fortified ruins of the former Navarr steading of Seveneaves, and two or three key points along the route between Hahnmark and the Mournwold. If nothing changes, the Empire could secure these final objectives next season. If nothing changes Imperial forces have gained a very significant foothold in West Ranging - but they have fallen short of the number of victory points required to secure the beachhead by one victory point.
At the same time, the Jotun have removed all trace of an Imperial presence in Western Scout, conquering that region. As there are no Imperial-controlled regions in Liathaven, the standard penalty to the production of personal resources now applies. With a second Jotun conquest of southern Liathaven, with the Jotun fury directed at the Navarr, and with the call to rally around the Black Thorns , we assume there is now no significant Navarr presence remaining in the territory.
Going forward, we will assume that the only Navarr steadings and stridings still based in Liathaven are player character groups. While this will not prevent spoils of war being assessed should the territory be recaptured, the lack of Imperial citizens and non-Jotun infrastructure means the territory would require extensive rebuilding, regardless of which Imperial nation the Senate assigns the territory to. Any character who assigned their military unit to support the Navarr army may also have accompanied them through the Westwood, or they may roleplay that their troops joined the army once it reached West Ranging.
While the Black Thorns were protected by the magic woven into the Paths, and by the enchantment woven by the Voice of the Quiet Forest, passing through a vallorn is not a safe proposition and medical supplies are in high demand. If you accompanied the Black Thorns, you may e-mail plot profounddecisions. Murderdale and the Carmine Fields - temporarily under Imperial control - are claimed by the Druj The situation in Weirwater is also a little uncertain.
Since they emerged from Karsk and crossed the Semmerlak in Summer last year, the army of the unquiet dead has avoided direct conflict wherever possible. Oh, their march has hardly been bloodless - they are flesh hungry shambling cadavers after all - but for the most part they have actively avoided confrontation with Imperial forces. Even when they were engaged in Astolat by the Golden Axe, and the defenders of the Castle of Thorns , they preferred to retreat rather than fight Imperial forces.
They spent the last season spread across south-western Weirwater - beneath the trees of Garthsmoor , Weirsmoor , and Hawksmoor. On the last night of the Winter Solstice, something happens. According to eye-witnesses from Applefell and Hawthorn, the green corpse-lights and emerald fires that mark the presence of these dangerous horrors suddenly flared up, turning rapidly from green to blue to purple to red.
At the same time, thousands of unliving throats let loose an unspeakable, gleeful howling that froze the blood of those who heard it, and sent all save the most courageous fleeing for home. Some brave knights-errant , and a handful of curious questing knights stride forth to explore the area. A number do not return, but those that do say that the unliving abominations are still there - gathered together in the wild hills and tangled woods of eastern Hawksmoor. They are not shy about attacking and attempting to devour living intruders, and there are a few more garbled reports that farms and homesteads nearby have been found empty or splashed with dried blood.
Yet they do not seem to be ranging very far afield and fairly soon the yeofolk of western Weirwater learn to avoid the areas where they are likely to be encountered. In the Barrens, Dawn - and thus the Empire - now controls only the region of Dawnguard. The Druj control the rest of the Barrens.
There is no further information about what is going on - although there is a spy network in the Barrens and it is possible that any military units assigned to support the scouts there may have more information. Thanks to the peace treaty ratified by the Empire during the Winter Solstice YE, the Druj orcs are now considered foreigners under Imperial law. In Weirwater, there is still a significant force of unliving husks. They appear similar to those created with a certain dark Winter magic enchantment. The bulk of the unnatural force is focused in western Hawksmoor. It represents a major force, comparable to a campaign army.
Out of the east, the Iron Helms march. Three stzena lead the way, beating drums.
Wind Rider's Oath by David Weber - WebScription Ebook
Behind them comes a standard bearer, holding the black and silver banner of the Iron Helms, raised for the first time in many years. Behind the banner march the warriors of Varushka , and their allies. Five thousand soldiers of the hills and the forests, grim faced and implacable. Most are clad in tightly woven scale, the finest the artisans of Karsk can forge.
Others prefer the freedom of movement offered by dark leather lamellar. The black plumes on their peaked helms flutter in the cold wind blowing down from the northern mountains. Their round shields are slung on their back. Their heavy swords, their sharp axes, are sheathed. Ranging to either side of the column are the dog handlers, their muzzled beasts restrained by tough leather leashes.
One word will send them racing into the enemy to harry, to trip, to savage. Another word will cause them to fall on downed warriors, tearing at throats and bellies until the enemy is so much bleeding meat. They fight beside their hounds, and there are stories - whispers - tales - that on nights when the moon is dark they hunt alongside them through the forests of Lestasny , wrapped in the skin of wolves. There are other beasts among the Iron Helms. Toward the rear of the column march a hundred eerie warriors hailing from the hills of Branoc.
They wear fur and boiled leather, and they are adorned with black feathers. Their faces are painted white, in disturbing patterns. They look a little more like Kallavesi, or Navarr, than true Varushkans. Many of their fellow soldiers give them a wide berth, and when they camp their yurts are raised a short distance from the others. There are said to be a number of cabalists among them, privy to the unsettling secret lore of the Lord of the Broken Barrow.
Sepher Shimmush Tehillim;
When they enter Skarsind , they seem fascinated by the Imperial Orcs , and there are rumours that some of them have fought alongside the Thule, as well as against them, during the recent campaigns in Karsk. Above the column drift night-feathered carrion birds. In the evening and the morning, they crowd in the trees, croaking and muttering to one another. Some of the soldiers - just a few - are seen speaking to the birds as night falls.
What they discuss, and who these soldiers are, is not a topic for open discussion. They camp outside the orc city for a night, then leave the good roads behind them. They travel quickly, and at night their tents huddle close together - they are Varushkan and do not like much being in the wilds in the dark. They spend three nights and two days at Hengesthal , where the commanders study maps and ask questions of the Imperial Orcs who garrison the fortification. The fortification is also where they meet three magistrates; a Varushkan, an Imperial Orc, and a Suaq from Hahnmark.
They will accompany the army as it heads into the hills. Perhaps their presence adds greater legitimacy to what is to come. There is a little frustration among some of the captains, especially those from the mines of Moresvah. One cold, wet morning at the tail end of Winter, while Spring is hanging immanent in the air, the Iron Helms march up the narrow mountain track that is the only approach to Crow's Keep. They do not come stealthily.
Their banners are unfurled; their stzena beat loud and hard on their drums; the soldiers raise their voices in the war anthem of the Empire. Their tone is dark, however; they impart to the celebration of Imperial martial might a certain cold edge, a threat, a promise of things to come. They have sent runners ahead, to tell the defenders of Crow's Keep that they are coming, and that they expect to be met by Dogri Thulebane, and by the criminals he shelters. The messengers meet them halfway up the mountain, the response of the Winterfolk a predictable silence.
The castle is no great fortification, but the approach is well guarded and difficult. There are a great many people on the walls - heavily armoured Steinr soldiers, leather-clad Suaq archers, and masked Kallavesi warriors.
Scouts suggest Dogri's little army of perhaps five hundred disgruntled Winterfolk has been reinforced. How much, and who by, is difficult to say. They are believed to be independent captains, angry with the ceding of Skarsind and the Silver Peaks , hungry for a chance to strike against the hated Thule, bitter that their grievances have gone unheard. Few in the Iron Helms care one way or another. A second warning is given. From the ramparts, a voice calls out "You will take no man or woman of Wintermark this day.
Go back, or we will make you go back. The heirs of Inge Suvvisdottir truly believe the storm can never break them. An oath is given that any who quit the castle now, and offer themselves to the custody of the magistrates, will be unharmed. Nobody moves. Minutes tick by. One of the Suaq on the wall raises their bow and sends two arrows thudding into the cold earth two feet in front of the messenger.
She flinches but does not move. She nods her head to the Winterfolk, turns her back on them, and walks casually back to the army to deliver their final refusal. Ten minutes later, the siege begins in earnest.
It is not quite as one-sided as might be expected. Crow's Keep survived countless attacks by the northern barbarians, survived even the occupation of the Thule, because of its isolated position and the difficulty of the approach - a single bridge over a fast flowing river gorge is the only reliable approach. Further, Dogri has received significant support from the captains of Wintermark - most with their shields and faces hooded, their identities known only to Dogri himself.
They fight alongside the people of Crow's Keep with equal fervour, and if they feel remorse at slaying fellow Imperial citizens that does not stay their hands. Any more than it stays the hands of the Varushkan soldiers. The only approach to the outer gate, the gate that provides access to the stone bridge across the river, is via a narrow pass. Two hundred warriors hold the outer fort against the Varushkans for nearly a fortnight.
The Iron Helms probe for weakness, attacking over and over, but each time they find little that they can exploit and are forced to fall back. They are patient, however, and while the loss of Imperial life on both sides is grim it is not half so terrible as it might be had their commander ordered an all-out assault. Eventually, the pressure of the Varushkan warriors breaches the gate. The fighting in the courtyard beyond is vicious, but the defenders retreat back across the bridge in good order taking advantage of the barricades they have had plenty of time to erect.
The Varushkans occupy the outer fort and again probe for weaknesses. The defenders have deep cellars - if the Iron Helms hope to starve them out they will be sorely disappointed. Several sorties across the bridge end in defeat for the Iron Helms, and for a short time the defenders begin to hope that they might hold out until the Spring Equinox. Yet the Varushkans hold the advantage and they never give up testing the defences. A little over a month after the gate is breached, they launch the final assault.
It begins with a dark shadow falling over the keep - as a screaming murder of black crows descends on the walls, talons tearing and beaks seeking the eyes of the marksmen. Covered from the archers, the implacable, heavily armoured schlacta advance, bearing great shields and vicious axes that can maim and cripple. Behind them come the hounds and their handlers, snarling and savage. The fighting rages for over an hour as the Wintermarkers force the Helms to pay a blood price for every step they take across the bridge.
But the Varushkans give as good as they get and their war hounds exact a terrible price, tearing out the throats of those who fall. Both sides keep their discipline and follow their orders - but this cruel Varushkan army was bred for bloody killing and the stones run red wheresoever they tread. If the Wintermarkers had had another score of archers or the same for their shield wall they would surely have thrown the Varushkans back once more. But for want of a shield the wall is lost - and the battle with it.
The horn sounds and the few surviving defenders fall back to the Keep. Behind them the stones are washed clear by the light rain that has begun to fall. The skies weeping, perhaps. The main gate of Crow's Keep was built to withstand raiding orcs, not an Imperial army. The Iron Helms bring up a covered battering ram, carefully navigating it over the stone bridge. Carved from a single weirwood tree, swinging on mighty chains, its hideous head of greensteel shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf bound with runes and oaths. The Hammer, they call it, and when they set it to the gates of Crow's Keep, the gates fall swiftly before it.
Once the castle is finally breached, blood is shed in earnest. These confined spaces still favour the defenders more than the attackers, but both sides sense the final battle has begun. As the Iron Helms struggle to bring the full force of their army to bear, the Winterfolk fight to defend their home. These warriors toughened by the harsh winters of northern Skarsind seek no quarter, as they fight against those who have come to take their home and the last vestige of their pride with it.
Soon the army has secured the fortification. Many of the surviving defenders have fled, ordered by Dogri to escape with their lives through a hidden postern gate when it is clear that the battle is lost. But Dogri and those closest to him make no attempt to flee. Shortly after noon, the last warriors of Crow's Keep take a stand in the Thane's great hall. They do not bar the doors, do not seal themselves in.
They wait inside stone walls, walls that have stood for over two centuries, for the invaders to come to them. The Iron Helms pause; there is a discussion about how best to proceed. One of the captains wants to simply set fire to the hall and let the flames solve their problem. Her argument that this will save Varushkan lives is dismissed out of hand, before any magistrate can intervene. The general has been very clear how this battle will end. Dogri Thulebane and his collaborators will be arrested and will face trial. The order is given. The dogs are leashed, the physicks and chirurgeons are called forth to await the word; once the hall is secured they will fight their own grim battle to ensure Dogri and his lieutenants are whole and hale enough to stand trial.
Dogri Thulebane has been captured - alive - by the Iron Helms along with several of his key supporters. In the process, most of his five-hundred person strong army is killed, with the remainder scattered or arrested.
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In doing so, however, over two-hundred Iron Helms were killed or otherwise rendered unable to continue fighting. Every adventure begins with the first step, so go and take it. Striking Wind. As an action, you can imbue one melee weapon that you are holding with wind energy, using your Channel Divinity.
For 1 minute, when you make an attack on your turn with the weapon, the weapon's reach increases by a number of feet equal to 5 x your Charisma modifier, as it shoots blasts, jabs and slashes of wind towards your foes, as appropriate to its damage type. If the weapon is not already magical, it becomes magical for the duration. You can end this effect on your turn as part of any other action.
If you are no longer holding or carrying this weapon, or if you fall unconscious, this effect ends. As an action, you can cause winds to guide you, using your Channel Divinity. A number of allied creatures up to your Charisma modifier minimum 1 within 60 feet of you can immediately use their reaction to move up to their speed without provoking opportunity attacks. Starting at 7th level, you and friendly creatures within 10 feet of you have advantage on ability checks and saving throws to escape the grappled or restrained conditions.
In addition, hostile creatures have disadvatage on opportunity attacks against you and friendly creatures within 10 feet of you.