++THE MEMORIES SCARRED++ Winter 381YE Winds of War

Steadily, mile by mile, the Marchers and their Navarr allies advance across the Mournwold. The last few scattered Jotun in Southmoor fall back into Liathaven before the first Imperial soldiers reach them. With a vital extra season to evacuate their thralls, the fields of Southmoor are eerily empty. A scattering of orcs are all that remain, the human thralls having long since moved to greener pastures in other parts of the Mourn.

Southmoor was the last region lost to the Jotun during the original invasion, and is the last to be freed The final major settlement to be liberated is old Sarcombe, perhaps appropriately. Once a prosperous Marcher town, trading with the Navarr in Liathaven, it was broken to ruins during the fighting three decades ago. It has long since been transformed into a fortified Jotun hall keeping a careful watch east, to the Greensward, and to Tassato. Some of the town buildings still stand, but the castle that surmounted it is no more. The western orcs have torn Hillstop down themselves, rather than allow it to fall into the hands of the Empire. The once rich market town of Sarcombe is a broken ruin again.

The story is the same in Green March. There are a handful of Jotun warbands that are still in the process of retreating from the Mourn, but they mostly fall back as soon as they see the slightest sign of Imperial forces. Again, not many thralls have been left behind - scattered families of stubborn humans and a smattering of orc thralls who seem to have picked up their neighbour’s grim determination to hang on to “their” land. Their masters lacked the time, or the spirit, to argue with them, abandoning them as they retreated.

Most of the Marchers who remain tend to be older - men and women in their forties and fifties who still remember life as part of the Empire. Some of the young people have left with the Jotun, following the only life they have ever known. Of the very old and the very young, there are all too few, a bitter legacy of the curses that were used to retake the land from the orcs.

The Marchers are not the only soldiers in Mournwold. The Navarr of the Quiet Step march up through the Greensward to join in the liberation of the Mournwold, keen to secure the western borders and access to the forests of their own conquered territories. There is something peculiar at work among the thorns and brands, however. Something supernatural. The army is accompanied by a larger-than-usual number of vates - the elite Navarr magicians - and by creatures that are clearly neither human nor orc. A few worried landskeepers opine that these are heralds of the Spring realm, but what they are doing with the Quiet Step is difficult to say. The Navarr seem almost disappointed that there are no Jotun to slay. Whatever private business it is that they are about they are given a wide berth by the citizens of the Mournwold.

Finally, at High Courage, the remains of a hastily abandoned camp are found. A mournful red and black banner, the banner of Gudmundur Arason, Jarl-of-Jarls, King of Narkyst, flutters before the great stag statue. A reminder and a promise, perhaps.

The Marchers, and thus the Empire, now control all of Mournwold. There is no significant opposition - the Drakes for example are in a position to benefit from their popular support and actually able to resupply while on active campaign.

The Quiet Step has permanently changed it’s army quality from scouting to cunning.

Despite the best efforts of the Jotun, the castle at old Sarcombe - what the Jotun once called Hillstop - could probably be rebuilt by the Empire. The civil service are still looking into the possibilities of rebuilding Hillstop, the Tribute, and Orchard’s Watch now that the Jotun have fled. They are also compiling a list of spoils of war to present to the Imperial Military Council, and may also suggest other opportunities to help restore the Mournwold.

The political situation in the Mournwold is still uncertain, however. Some steps have been taken to address their concerns, such as the commission of several fortifications, for example, but the Singing Caves still remains unallocated by the Imperial Senate. There will be further updates about the situation in the Mourn in Winds of Fortune, but for now the situation remains tense.

Photo is another by Beth Dooner.

#Morestilletocome, #NowtheMarcherscangetbacktotherealwar, #Mournwoldforthecup!

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