Three tales of fire (winds of war spring 378ye)

Crossposted from the facebooks
[size=150]THREE TALES OF FIRE[/size]

Summer nights are short; as the Solstice approaches, they get shorter. The hours of twilight, though, stretch out as the sun balances on the horizon before true night or true dawn. Lights flicker in the twilight, flaring to life … dying to ashes.

A Tale of Evening Hearths
As day turns to night, the folk of the Greensward bank their fires and shutter their winedows. They sleep fitfully in their beds, trusting to the flimsy safety of a ring of hay-filled hessian and hollowed heads. The scarecrows of Overton, a scowling ward against the hunger of the Jotun. Empty shirts and sacks stuffed with Marcher straw, bound to stakes, dead faces staring outward in the gathering gloom. The Jotun avoid them; only the greediest raider pushes through the ring to attack the farms of the Greensward, and of those most turn back before they reach the battered pallisade that surrounds the town. Still, despite their fear, they still come.

The warning bell rings, loud and fast in the twilight.

Then, the weak and the injured flee to the sanctuary of Greensward Abbey, warded by magic from jealous barbarian eyes. There they find shelter until the bell rings again to signal that the echausted militia have held the raiders at bay as best they can … or that the orcs have left with the booty they came for. Perhaps it is superstitious dread that keeps the Jotun at bay, perhaps the subtle magic of the Marches, perhaps something more sinister.

How much longer will the scarecrows’ magic last? How long before the raiders return full-strength to pillage the last redoubt of the Marchers in the Mourn?

A Tale of Midnight Torches
The sun rests beneath the horizon. Torches and campfires mark the borders of Casinea and Bastion, the rough camps of the Virtue Crusade. Several hundred refugees from Reikos, many with little more than the cowl on their head, make ready to march on the Druj. Their hatred of the monsters who have murdered their kin and befouled their homes is stoked by their firebrand wayfarers. Hale or sickly, old or young: all are told that they have a part to play in the coming battle.

The lost and the desperate, encouraged to take up arms to reclaim what is theirs. They are hopeful of a sure victory, one promised by reports of visions and portents and oracular dreams. Their leaders went to Anvil and were promised support by Senators and Generals alike. But as the day proclaimed for the great assault grows darker, the crusade marches to war alone.

Not everyone marches; some fall prey to doubt, slipping away as the ragged column snakes into war-torn Reikos. There is still a mob of at least a hundred Imperial citizens left when the encounters the Druj scouts. The barbarians must suspect a trap - after all, it is what they would have done. Sacrifice a few worthless pawns to lead the enemy into an ambush.

In the end, though, they strike. There are some in the crusade who can fight - a handful of Unconquered, a few displaced guardians, perhaps a dozen cataphracts eager to strike against the hated druj. They are the first to fall. The Virtue Crusade collapses into anarchy. Even now, it is not too late for some to escape. The unfortunate few, though, those who still believe the promises of victory are denied even the peace of the grave. Brutally subdued, captured and enslaved by the merciless orcs.

The Virtue Crusade is over. In time, the survivors will perhaps come to envy those who had a swift death.

A Tale of the Beacons of the Dawn
Flames dance through the night until the twilight of dawn spreads across the horizon. Under the banner of the Valiant Pegasus, Highborn guardians man the watchflames of Fort Mezudan, alongisde the Urizen sentinels. Under the banners of the Salt Dogs and the Stone Gyre, the barbarians watch them from around their roaring campfires. The Grendel greet the dawn with great shouts and skirling pipes. Both sides are dug-in, waiting. Away from Screed, Spiral is almost peaceful.

Not so at sea.

Imperial fleets engage the Grendel fleets in the deep waters off the Spiral coast. Here fly the flags of Freeborn corsairs and Navarr captains; there sleek Urizen vessels prowl the coast under the banner of the Phoenix; in deeper waters the speedy fleet of a Temeschwari merchant-venturer keeps pace with the rough-hewn flotilla of Blood Crow Yargol. At night, three great beacons burn on the walls of shattered Apulian, warning the Grendel fleets of dangers both Imperial and natural. The shipping routes between the conquered Spiral town and the Broken Shore are disrupted. Attacking the Grendel port directly would be pure folly - especially when there are fat Grendel boats to attack instead. Supply ships from Dubhtraig are sunk, treasure ships transporting looted Urizen goods are captured.

Oh, the land forces will survive well enough - but they will need to keep their scavenged bounties for themselves, need to be a little more cautious in their raiding, with the surety of support from the Broken Shore cast into doubt. Yet there are other routes for trade … treacherous routes. Returned to Imperial ports, sailors gossip about the handful of Imperial ships seen entering the port of Apulian to trade, betraying the Empire in pursuit of their own personal profits.

There then. Three tales told by firelight, when the sun has set and before it has truly risen. Three short glimpses of three little dramas that spin out across the Empire, before the Summer Solstice, before the nights begin to grow longer once again.

Winds of War #6. Mournwold, Reikos and Spiral.

Sorry about the delay on these little stories but I spent a lot of time trying to get full-length bits of prose out of them and failing dismally. Each one is a significant Campaign-level event that people proably know about, but they’re also fairly specific stories in a way that the Segura, Sermersuaq, Therunin, Karsk and Holberg campaigns are not.

They also present a bit of a dilemma - all three have in common that they are situations that have unfolded due to player actions, but they’ve much smaller impact than the ‘‘big stuff’’ - at the same time though I don’t think they’re unimportant. In the Olden Days, we’d have done a special report for the players who our database said were in the affected territories … which had it’s own horrible, horrible problems.

We could present these outcomes through NPCs, but then we run the risk of some people who ought to IC know about them not knowing about them. So for now, they go here while we think about a better way to present information that anyone might know based on their character and personal narrative without having to e-mail every PC and ask where they are spending their Summer holidays :wink:

As usual we’ll put them on the main wiki shortly.

That’s the WInds of War done for now … but there’ll be a few more announcements to come about significant events leading into the Summer Solstice event. Watch this space.