## BLOOD ON THE SCALES
Shortly after the Spring Equinox, the Northern Eagle withdraws from Spiral into Redoubt. For a few days it looks as if the Green Shields will be defending Cinon by themselves ... but then they are reinforced by the Eastern Sky, marching from the west through the passes of Willstone. A couple of weeks later they are further reinforced by the Towerjacks - the League army refusing to allow the disastrous state of the roads in Redoubt to slow them down. The three armies mount a staunch defence of the one remaining Imperial region of Spiral.
And what a defence it is! Supported by some eight thousand troops belonging to independant captains, as well as the shambling undead shock troops attached to the Green Shield, they face a full assault from the Grendel forces.
The Grendel strategy appears to be three tiered; some of their armies push directly north and west toward Damakhan's Forge from Ateri. A second, slightly smaller force takes a more cautious approach, moving from Screed to test the Empire's defences in southern Cinon. A third force attempts an even slower advance from Ossuary, targeting key spires along the western side of the still-Imperial region. These forces are supported by marines and supplies delivered by the Grendel navies.
As in previous seasons, some of the orc generals demonstrate a preternatural ability to coordinate their tactics, and to engage in unified strategy even though the armies are spread out around the borders of Cinon. They are, perhaps, not expecting the Towerjacks who possess their own potent enchantment, enhancing the discipline of the League army to the point where they are able to predict and counter the direct strategy of the army marching beneath the banner of the black eels. The overwhelming assault the western Grendel armies are expecting to punch through the Imperial defences ... fails to materialise. yet this defence is costly. The Towerjacks heroic refusal to cede even an inch of ground requires tough decisions to be made, and tough decisions cost lives...
The southern orc force moves more slowly, with greater care ... meets the wall of steel and shields that is the Green Shield and the Eastern Sky. They press through the mountains from the Black Plateau, probing, looking for any weakness ... and fail to find it. Week after week they continue to try and fine new ways to push around the Imperial defenders - to no avail. The southern forces stand fast. The Eastern Sky offer and expect no quarter, their fervour inspiring the Green Shield and their cohort of reanimated Urizen and Grendel corpses to hold the line. The Grendel are pushed back into Screed time and again.
The price of defending the west and the south is that the eastern force is almost unopposed. Pressing out of Ossuary, the orcs under the turtle banner make some early gains ... and then the Fire of the South arrive. Last engaged with the Jotun in Liathaven, the Freeborn army engages in an heroic forced march across the entire breadth of the Empire. Skirting the northern borders of the Mournwold, they barely pause for breath as they press through Miaren and Casinea, down into Bastion, following the trods as best they can. Resting for one full day, they then press into the mountains. Through Morrow into Zenith, avoiding the trap of Redoubt, they triumphantly tear down out of Occursion into Ossuary, taking the Grendel turtle-banner by surprise. The orcs abandon their assault into Cinon, and wheel to face the new threat.
To their credit, the turtle-banner responds extremely quickly - they demonstrate the supernatural ability to adjust and respond to enemy strategies that has become a hallmark of the orcs during the Spiral campaign - but they are outnumbered. The Fire of the South has brought with then some two thousand additional soldiers - those who were able to keep up. Some of them are clearly magical in nature, including a cohort of crystalline soldiers of a peculiarly insectile appearance. They have also brought with them a force never before encountered by the Grendel. A half dozen immense magical beast; three massive ram-like creatures, a bear, and two huge boars composed of living fire. The first time the armies fight, these supernatural allies, summoned and bound by Imperial magic, charge straight into the orc army and detonate with an ear-splitting explosion of thunder and magical flame, startling and scattering and incinerating orcs left and right!
The turtle-banner rallies, but it is slowly pushed back. As the other Imperial forces protect Cinon, the Fire of the South pushes slowly southward into Ossuary, beginning the long slow push toward the Legacy in the south. The Grendel advance has been stymied - more, the unexpected arrival of the Freeborn army has seen the Empire regain a little of its lost territory. A significant factor here - along with the strength of the Empire's defence, and the numbers of troops brought to bear - was surely the victory of the heroes of the Empire during the Spring Equinox. The defence of Damakhan's Forge and the various successful skirmishes with the southern orcs over the course of Equinox clearly interfered with the Grendel strategy. Heroic action put them on the back foot and making it easier for the Imperial armies to position themselves so as best to stop the Grendel attack. The situation might have been quite different if the orcs had succeeded in their sneak attack into Cinon!
There is perhaps one note of caution, sounded by the Urizen watchers who keep Screed under careful scrutiny. The bloodshed, the violence, and the anger that has washed across Spiral these last few seasons has begun to rouse the Black Plateau again. Dawnish soldiers and WIntermark warriors alike hear its echoes in their dreams as they fight on the southern borders of Cinon. What influence the Black Plateau may have on the battles in Spiral is uncertain at best - even the Grendel seem to give it a wide berth - but some of the watchers are concerned that continued violence may see some unpredictable magical emanation in the near future.
The Empire has held their ground in Cinon, but the Grendel still have a presence along the eastern side of the region (a few remaining victory points). The Fire of the South have made some headway into driving the Grendel out of Ossuary, but still have a long way to go (and are effectively attempting to create a new beachhead meaning their progress will be further impeded).
Kind of a draw (although the Empire has made some gains in Ossuary i think they might prove a little tricky to exploit), but what a draw! I genuinely expected the Grendel to win here but a combination of mad-dashes, enchantments, and independent captains (which is IC game speak for "military units") held firm against the Grendel assault. For another season at least!
Photo is Oliver Facey, and while I did have a note of who is in it I have since lost it I'm afraid.
#Grumblinggeographyalmostcertainlynothingtoworryabout, #SomeonehasclearlyissuedtheFreebornwithrocketpants, #Explodinggiantanimalsftw