A Waltz of Pain & Iron (‘65-‘81)
And thus we entered the second phase of the war, whence terrible truths were revealed and the most dastardly deeds were done and sewn.
One such started in secret, where no one would have expected, at places that, u until now were the byline of the entire war itself.
Up to that point, the woden folk did seldomly show themselves except to make war upon men, and so it was in this case a well, as they attacked the border forts to the south of the Amaranthine Nabas, where those garrisons under hand of the Ordo Peucinia sat, and few travelers, if any, could ever carry the knowledge of these events afar. It would take us years to found out that they´d have fallen in summer of ‘65. This event, which precipitates their entry to greater Gehenna later on, would become known as the Handstreich, a blitz of events in which not one, or even two, but all of the garrisons fell in one swooping strike, like an outstretched hand reaching towards the stars.
It should be a little more than this, but in light of this event, it almost appears as if on the bylines that this year also marked the first time the Bandari were seen on the battlefield, perhaps bought by marasen coin, perhaps entered as slaves driven from the north, perhaps their reason was entirely their own. Having these engines of war on either side was a sign of the massacre that would follow, as few battles between Bandari were made without blood.
Despite this precocious beginning, the following years were more of recuperation, with few big battles in between, as attrition ate away at what the slim treasury didn´t and illness and banditry, before already a drag on the land, were now full blown when soldiers turned to highway robbery to earn what their pay did them not.
Some of the greatest bandits of our age, Ottgar the Robraeunler, Jessok Spiteface, Karel di Lemorria and his band of merry men who fled later to distant Kordrax and would become known as a scourge upon the seas aafter having fought on land before. Only Atelei itself saw heavier fighting, where the devastation was to be between Tarraco and Kolpingerland, and the war kept afloat many a dying business. This kept going on until 1370 or 71, even witnesses’ aren´t exactly clear.
What is known however is the two events in ’70, that changed the war for the worse. First of them was the red spots, that finally set aflame the peasantry with the noted occurrence of the Red Death in Borges, from where it would go on to march across Gehenna like the collectors of the Tartarus and reap harvest in blood and pain aplenty.
The other event was the surprising victory of the afterwards dubbed ‘Golden Fleet’, the combined collection of merchanters that made up supremist naval power. The battle at sea, close to the cordian shore, would serve well to illustrate the differing tides and change in perspective a maritime battle has to make for one to succeed here, and the marequoi did not. Even while supremist strategy won the day here, even back then coalitionists claimed foul´d sorcery by suprematii hand, who claimed their enemies’ wickedness as only reasons those lost, and back and forth they went.
Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that the battle at the Cliffs of [Hier Stadt Einfügen] went to the Golden Fleet that day and carried the supremists to victory and enabled their ability to always land wherever they´d so desire as long as they held that fleet. A strong fortune in the face of the tyrants support of the Kaiser, which set a sign for both sides, that even outside powers would not stop from interfering in the war.
With the dramatic change on the seas, the Golden Fleet thus enabled supremist tactics otherwise unheard of. As the army of Wratislava of Zapadní kept up the siege of Dambaum for nearly two years, their defenders only held out that long due to the support from overseas and the constant resupply established by the fleet.
As the years went on, many settled in, established the siege as a permanent state, rather than change it. That makes the change that came all the more jarring. There was a traitor within the suprematii midst. A young boy of barely seventeen summers, one of the many orphans that got into the city when the siege began proper, smuggled in by a group of saboteurs, who finally succeeded in getting the mighty city gate open on winter solstice.
Coalitionists poured into the sleeping city like wine into a whore´s mouth and the bloody sign of Mannus flew atop Starrer Hall when the mayors manor fell to the invaders. But not all of Dambaum fell. Retreating to the inner keep, the inner circle of the cities powerful fled to a secret sanctum, where mighty arcana and powerful magicks kept their enemies at bay, though few now dare speak of such sorceries openly. Thus came and went ’71, and another siege, of the city keep began, this one, perhaps shorter than the last.
Forced from out of their money-grubbing little fingers, the mighty League of Maras soon entered the fray, as the calendars turned towards the old year of 1373, when a declaration of promise arrived for both sides, and briskly declared that league troops would intervene on whomever was willing to pay the most coin for their services. Understandably, both Marequista and Supremists were abhorred, but entered talks to buy their services nonetheless.
With the great raiders of Storre Störbrander soon joining the coalition, and Andri ‘Narb’ Axendottr on union side, their willingness to change sides and fight for whoever would pay them most, the war entered its most chaotic phase yet.
Worse even, the battles alongside southern Borges were soon made by Marasen against Marasen and the carnage was real, gritty, and brutal to the extreme.
But as push comes to shove, so death took its due, and even greatness can not stop the fall of the mighty. ’75 it was, as Great Marshal of Erisian Fortune Gerhard Meister zu Wunderbrück, leader of coalitionist war effort died, having fallen from grace after a plot to machinate greater power for himself, murdered by advocati sent from the Kaisers side.
And as if this early spring, that suddenl fell to Autumn, as one dead wasn´t enough, so did Van Dijkvries fall, though in battle still, and it is said that his headless body, after being hit frontal by the cannon that ripped of his head, rode on amidst the destruction and was only found days later, finally having been thrown to the ground when his trusted companion ‘Zerus’ died of exhaustion, hounded till death by supremist dogs.
The loss of both their war leaders hit the coalition with force equal to a smoldering hammer. Losing morale and ground might be one thing, but losing the two greatest military minds of the age was something unlikely to be recovered from, as the war fortunes would from then on begin to shift. Slowly at first, then ever more rapidly.
The battle of Einbruck, involved after a surprise attack by supremist guerilla, proved this point when then-King Wroijtila VI of Zapadni had to flee the city to escape capture and punishment, leaving his militia and guard to defend what amounted to a ramshackle horde. The city lost much of its splendor then, and still suffers to regain it today.
More overwhelming though was the sudden attack from the west which followed. Having remained quiet on the fronts for years before, decades that went by without so much as interaction, the Aen Seidhe marched upon Gehenna again, and with quick and lethal force took over Avrilas and x, in a mere few months felling cities that would have taken other forces years to siege down, despite the great walls and minds defending them.
It took the Gatylians the beter part of the year to finally fight back, and it was only during the defense of Debilis, that the leadership of Voivode Pykxtierna succeeded in throwing the attacking troops off- course. That same course broke his neck. It was the final charge. Rain and thunder roared in the background, as the men made ready to blaze through, his personal guard of Mannen at the ready.
The Voivode himself, decked out in ancestral armor and with his trusted lance Mortrett at his side, would move to the front of the formation as the Aen Seidhe took position. Already they knew that this charge had to break their enemy, or they´d have failed in their task. He [Voivode Pykxtierna] knew, and even in the face of the bizarre creatures the wooden ones had broken out, that they would win this day, as every day up until now.
They charged. Gloriously, their lances thrust into the wood and bark, where sap and blood mixed and made great terror upon their enemy. It is said that Pykxtierna himself faced a beast most horrible, the dreaded Wodetitan, a mix of bark and bones, arms and legs ten feet high and big, with claws as long and sharp as steel swords.
It strode on the battlefield as only giants can do and he took it upon himself to ride it down. As he circled the great one, he took several thrusts at it, but again and again the beast deflected his hits, until finally he took distance and tried to ram in once deeply, his great golden lance tip ripping deeply into the bark and a mighty roar escaped its mutitaled mouth. With its great claws it swathed the poor man aside. Onlookers still tell of his surprised face as the beasts fingers rend his flesh and later on it would be difficult to discern his flesh from that of his horses.
But the Mannen needed a leader, and elected his left hand, Stratego Jadwigo to rule them henceforth, and he took them to be hidden by darkness, and as such they became the Dunkelmannen, reborn to kill, murder and maim in the night. The Aen Seidhe lost that day, and night. And weren´t heard of from much more.
But Gatylia wasn´t the only place to suffer such devastation, and Borges and Atelei suffered greatly, though their devastator was of a different kind. The Red Death, great equalizer in the face of all differences, took young and old alike, and reached deeply into the camps, when it took in one night half the army of then-Duke Wallingen, Hasso III of Saalbrogg among them. The death of such prominent a person forced the coalitionists to re-convene in the face of the still remaining union forces and choose the freshly instated Minrab IX of Wallingen, still red-faced from the pain of loss, come as quickly as he could to Maledictas, where the Kaiser himself announced and proclaimed his title as Strategoi Superior for their side. Thus turned 1379 RA.
His stratagem was infamous in its time, for already newly-selected, he began to choose several troop formations he sent out on their own, to doubt enemy war capabilities, to lure and chance them to encounter his forces. This led to a number of skirmishes alongside the entire eastern front, which culminated in the Battle of Infante, where, on the half-closed peninsula his men had chanced upon reinforcements of union-heritage and tried to strike, only to join what became a prolonged and enduring battle.
He fed more and more people into it, and no decision was in sight after two weeks of fighting. Already the peninsula and its villages were deserted, burned, blazed and glassed. In the early of dawn it was that the first rose. Reports came in quickly, of the dead of night to rise again, attacking their former comrades and devouring the flesh of the living.
The panic spread like wildfire in both camps as their once-living brethren came back. Spewn about as the refuse of Erebus, these revenants attacked indifferently and soon the battle was ended over the flight of its participiants away from the living dead.
If before, the priests’ weren´t able to whip up fervor, now the people believed all the more, and zealots joined the masses of war-hungry and torn as new fuel as the years turned on.