(This is a comprehensive review of the Baranur-Beinison war, which started rather a few volumes ago. Enjoy.)
Despatches from the Field:
Prelude to Invasion
Nober. A time of endings and beginnings. The year is 1013 B.Y. and there are numerous celebrations being planned to mark the turning of the year. Just a few short weeks earlier, King Haralan had celebrated his thirty-sixth birthday. Sir Edward Sothos, Haralan’s close friend and advisor and the kingdom’s Knight Commander, would soon celebrate his thirty-first.
Winter had come slightly earlier than expected and displayed a ferocity such as few could remember. The storms raging outside Crown Castle’s environs went almost un-noticed. Inside the castle, the nobles of the land were engaged in heated debate and exchanging even hotter words in the great War Council called by the King.
The past year had been a tumultuous one for the third-largest kingdom on the continent. Early in 1012, rumors began circulating that Bichu, an island Empire south and west of Baranur was planning to invade. Almost nothing was known about Bichu. Other than the fact that the Bichanese warriors, samurai they were called in the native tongue of Bichu, were fanatical in battle and were said to possess swords of un-matched quality, the most the average Baranurian knew of Bichu, if they knew of it at all, was that they were alien and they wanted their land. Thus spoke the rumours.
The truth was very different. In reality, the rumours had been started by a group of nobles and merchants from Duchy Dargon, in the extreme northwest. This small group of individuals had been persuaded to stir up trouble by agents of the Beinisonian Emperor, Untar II. The general idea was to make Baranur and Bichu go to war so that the Beinisonian Empire could then move on Baranur, which would have been weakened considerably by the war, thus adding the lands of Baranur to Beinison only a modicum of effort.
To this end, the conspirators planned the assassination of several of Baranur’s nobles, chief among these the Duke of Dargon himself. The assassination attempt against the Duke failed, but resulted in the death of one of the heirs of the Barony of Connall. The Connall family were relatives of Duke Dargon and with him had been among the most vociferous in their protestation against going to war with Bichu. Since the Barony now had only one surviving member of the ruling family, the decision of whom to choose as successor to the late Baron was now academic. Luthias Connall was invested as Baron Connall by his cousin the Duke and all seemed fine.
All was not fine, though. Duke Dargon had appointed Connall as Duke’s Advocate, chief upholder of the King’s Justice in the Duchy. As Duke’s Advocate, it fell to Luthias to investigate the conspiracy. The primary conspirator, Baron Coronabo, contrived to have evidence planted in Duke Dargon’s office that implicated the Duke as the man behind the plot to have Baranur go to war with Bichu, and thus the man responsible for Connall’s twin brother’s death.
Connall was forced to investigate the charges and he concluded, however reluctantly, that there was indeeed evidence to proceed to trial. By Baranurian law, a high-ranking noble such as a Duke had to be tried before the King in Magnus. Sir Edward, in Dargon to judge a tournament, escorted Duke Dargon to Magnus for the trial. Defending Dargon was Lord Marcellon of Equiville, Dargon’s father-in-law and former Royal Magist. As Duke’s Advocate for Duchy Dargon, it fell to Baron Connall to prosecute.
By summer, 1013, it was over. Working together, Marcellon and Connall had exposed the real conspirators and proved Dargon’s innocence. King Haralan called a War Council of respected nobles from throughout the Kingdom. This Council would give the King advice on how to respond to the Beinisonian plot. An early decision was made to send Count Connall, newly created as such in reward for exposing the conspiracy, to Beinison as Ambassador. There he would inquire to the Beinisonian Emperor as to his intentions towards Baranur.
The summer also saw the arrival of a most unexpected embassy from the Empire of Galicia, Sir Edward’s homeland. Galicia had, for several hundred years and by it’s own choice, been isolated from the outside world. It maintained a policy of aggressive neutrality. No one was permitted to cross the border in either direction excpet by direct command of the Emperor, Nyrull I. The origin of this policy was unknown save by the Galicians themselves and they weren’t talking. Thus, the arrival of an embassy from the Galician Emperor was an occasion of note.
Haralan was pleasantly surprised to find that the ambassador had instructions to work out some sort of trade agreement between the two nations. He was less than happy when his Knight Commander nearly took the ambassador’s head off, quite literally, when the two met.
Sir Edward and the ambassador had been old foes from their days as mercenaries in the chaotic Kingdom of Alnor, built on the ruins of the ancient Fretheod Empire on the continent of Duurom. Moreover, Ambassador Myros was also Baron of Alphoria. For close to a thousand years, Alphoria had been held by the Sothos family. Myros took great delight in informing Sir Edward that Edward’s father, Dion, had been executed for treason. Adding to Sir Edward’s rage was the fact that Myros was accompanied by his wife, Elaine. Elaine Myros, formerly Elaine Janos, daughter to the former Count Janos, had been the object of Edward’s affection eight years earlier in Galicia. Edward had killed the son of one of Galicia’s powerful Dukes in a duel over Elaine and was forced into exile. Myros knew full well the history between his wife and Edward and took further delight in seeing Edward’s reaction. The War Council dragged on into winter, awaiting a reply from Count Connall, and the Galician embassy stayed to observe.
Ambassador Myros had his own personal agenda in coming to Baranur. He was part of a cabal, headed by Duke Markin, the father of the man Edward killed, that was plotting to overthrow the Galician Emperor. Myros saw in the embassy a perfect opportunity to recruit allies and a source of men and material for the coming coup.
With Myros was a sorceress by the name of Celeste. She professed to be in Myros’ service, but in reality, she was a member of The Order, a secret organization of Galician mages dedicated totally to preserving the Empire. The Order’s leader, the Primus, had instructed Celeste to report on Myros’ activities. Myros was known to The Order as one of the cabal and they hoped to learn more about Myros’ plans while in Baranur and about Baranur itself. Celeste, too, had her own agenda to pursue. While reporting on Myros, she hoped to utilize the information she gained to turn the situation to her best advantage.
The end of the War Council was spectacular. An Ambassador arrived from Beinison with a gift — the head of Luthias Connall in a golden box. On the same day, just after the “gift” had been opened, an assassination team from Galicia arrived with the intent of “removing” Myros and his chief advisors.
The result of these two events was that an angry King declared war on Beinison and Myros escaped while his underlings died. In a move that surprised the whole Baranurian Court, Celeste, leader of the assassination team, offered Sir Edward the coronet of Alphoria by Nyrull’s command. Sir Edward refused, saying his oath to his friend and King, and the coming war, demanded that he stay in Baranur.
The new year would bring red war to the Kingdom of Baranur and the tales the bards would tell would be ones of great heroes and even greater tragedies.
Despatches from the Field:
Deber, 1013, finds the Kingdom of Baranur gripped by the worst winter in living memory. War has come to Baranur, a war of inaction — nothing can move through the heavy snows and freezing cold.
Into this frozen hell journey brave men and women on struggling horses. They carry messages to all corners of the Kingdom, announcing war. The people have not been expecting war, not with Beinison and the news comes as a shock. In the barracks and cantonments of the Royal Army, the shock is a double one. For with the declaration of war comes orders from the Knight Commander — Move south with all haste. In the dead of winter, the commanders of the Royal Army stare with incredulity at seemingly impossible orders.
Edward Sothos, Knight Commander of the Royal Armies, knows how difficult the orders are. He gives them because he has no other choice. The Royal Army can muster 43,000 warriors at the start of Deber. Fourteen thousand in each of the Northern and Southern Marches and fifteen thousand at Magnus. Another 10,000 are being recruited and trained and must remain in their training schools. The Militia of the Kingdom, 50,000 strong, are mobilizing also though the quality of the Militia Regiments varies widely.
Sir Edward knows his troops will be facing the full might of the Beinisonian armies and so he gives the order for all available troops to bolster Knight Captain Martis Westbrook’s Army of the Southern Marches. The Northern Marches, under the command of Knight Captain Ailean of Bivar, is stripped of troops — Sir Ailean is left with only five thousand out of his original force of fourteen thousand. The Magnus Garrison remains as a strategic reserve.
As the preparations go on, Edward and Marcellon are summoned south by the Duke of Pyridain. A man suffering heavily from his travels has come from Beinison. He claims to be a Baranurian subject and says he has information for the Knight Commander.
With spring almost upon the land, Edward and Marcellon arrive to interrogate the traveller. They discover him to be none other than Luthias Connall, whose very “execution” by the Beinisonians was the spark that started the war, very much alive and in very bad condition.
From him, they learn that the Beinisonians are planing a surprise attack on the Laraka River, Magnus’ economic lifeline and, now, under-defended. They also learn that the enemy does not plan to wait until summer, the traditional campaign season, to attack. Sir Edward’s strategy of concentrating his forces in the south will blunt the enemy’s main attack but has left the entire Northwest open to invasion.
By Melrin, the Royal Army is reeling from losses on both fronts. In the South, the enemy’s main army shattered Knight Captain Westbrook’s force at Oron’s Crossroads. Virtually the entirety of the Noble Houses of the Southern Marches is annihilated and a goodly portion of the Pyridain Militia with it. In what will become recognized as one of the great blunders of the war, the Beinisonian Emperor, Untar II, allows Martis Westbrook to extricate over half her 19,500 troops unmolested. These troops will continue to be a drain on Beinisonian resources throughout the war.
Untar’s main army, the Fist of the Emperor, goes on to reduce Pyridain City (defended by the remnants of the Baranurian heavy infantry that fought at Oron’s Crossroads), and begins its march on Magnus, laying waste to the countryside as it goes.
In the North, 20,000 troops commanded by an up-and-coming field marshal of the Beinisonian army, Joachim Vasquez, lands at Sharks’ Cove (Duchy Quinnat) on the mouth of the Laraka River. Sir Ailean of Bivar meets this attack at the water’s edge with 5,500 men. The Baranurian forces give the elite light troops of the enemy a good thrashing but are finally overwhelmed. Lord Morion of Pentamorlo rallies the survivors and begins a long and gruelling retreat down the Laraka. He plans to make his stand at Gateway Keep, 250 leagues north of Magnus and designed for just this purpose.
Vasquez moves quickly in pursuit, but is delayed at Port Sevlyn, a city of 10,000 halfway between Sharks’ Cove and Gateway Keep and thus a vital base of supply. One of the Duchy of Quinnat’s Militia Regiments garrisons the city and determines to hold off the enemy for as long as possible.
The 1,000 defenders hold off the enemy army for three days, an incredible feat of arms. At the end, Vasquez orders the garrison, and half the populace, put to the sword as an example to discourage further resistance. He leaves some troops to garrison the city and moves off down the Laraka towards Gateway and Magnus.
As Yule, 1014, reaches its midpoint, three great armies threaten Baranur. In the South, Untar and the 30,000 strong Fist of the Emperor are drawing ever closer to Magnus and if not checked will arrive by Seber. On the Laraka, Vasquez has received reinforcements and is preparing to launch an attack on the desperate defenders of Gateway Keep. In the North, a force of 15,000 approaches Dargon City from the sea undetected.
To counter the threat to the capital, the Knight Commander has sent Baranur’s heavy cavalry, the 8,000 strong Royal Hussars, to aid Lord Morion in his defence of Gateway Keep while other forces begin the march toward Magnus, hoping to reach the city before the enemy.
The spring of 1014 has been one of blood and death. The coming summer promises to be one of carnage and horror unsurpassed.