Blood and stone (winds of war autumn 378ye)

Crossposted from the Facebook

[size=150]BLOOD AND STONE[/size]

As the days slowly lengthen toward Autumn, the skies are clear and bright, but at night the glittering sea of stars brings with it a bone numbing cold that promises a long winter. The Silver Peaks in north-eastern Sermersuaq echo with the thunder of war.

The Green Shield and the Fist of the Mountain - already engaged in holding back the Thule advance through the Silver Peaks - are joined by the stoic Winter Sun (accompanied by a thousand silent husks torn from the battlefields of Holberg) and the fleet-footed Freeborn of the Fire of the South. They face the forces of the Thule in the foothills below the peaks.

Having begun to secure the upper passes, the invaders now focus their attention to the Stonefields themselves. Their attempt to claim the Ice Caves was countered by the Empire’s heroes; now they seek to claim the broken plains scattered with rich deposits of tempest jade and the rocky sanctuaries where crystal mana pools.

The army fights under the banner of the white hound - fights to the pounding of drums with a savage abandon that matches the cold fury of the Winterfolk, the disciplined might of the Imperial orcs and the passion of the Fires of the South. Their armies are wound about with powerful northern sorcery. Their leaders seem preternaturally astute, predicting the moves of their opponents with uncanny accuracy, while the savage hunters of the Ice Shard Banner move through the foothills and broken terrain like ghosts, striking deep into East Floes and Suaq Fount. More dramatically, the warlocks who stand beneath the Lightning banner twist the weather itself to their command, sending blizzards of unseasonal snow to bog down the defenders, cutting visibility and leaving them prey to deadly ambushes.

The Thule sorcery does not go unanswered; Imperial magic causes the snowfields of Sermersuaq to glitter in the summer sun. Potent healing magic drawn from the Spring realm means that any wound short of a killing blow heals almost overnight. The magic is indiscriminate - it affects Imperial and barbarian, orc and human and beast equally. It helps reduce the death toll in the mountains, and all across Sermersuaq lives are saved and sicknesses healed. The herds of mammoth and deer will be especially rich and healthy come the Spring.

The two sides are roughly matched in terms of numbers; perhaps fifteen thousand warriors on each side. Yet the Thule sorcery inexorably turns the tide in their favour. Day by day they claim a little more ground, and while the Empire rallies to force them back one step, it does so at the cost of allowing them to take two steps forward elsewhere. The Imperial forces fight cautiously, ceding ground rather than risk being lured into an ambush or suffering a major defeat. The Thule by contrast take more risks, their losses reflect their tactics, despite the healing power of Spring which protects both sides equally.

After Summer dies, and Autumn ages towards the equinox, it is clear that the Stonefields are in the hands of the Thule. While their foothold has strengthened, the barbarians are still not quite secure enough to have conquered the entire Silver Peaks.The Imperial troops have slowed their advance, but they cannot stop it altogether. If all continues as it is, the Thule will claim the Silver Peaks with the beginning of Spring next year … and then the plains of Sermersuaq will be theirs for the taking.

The first of five Winds of War posts. There have been reinforcements to both sides of the campaign here, and the Thule have still not managed to gain a beachhead in Sermersuaq, but they are slowly - slowly - pushing the Imperial forces back out of the Silver Peaks).