[size=150]IN KARSK, THE THULE WITHDRAW[/size]
The orcs quit their positions in the hills of Crowslook and Branoc. There is no fanfare. One evening when the huddled humans go to sleep they are under the dominion of the Thule. The next morning, orders come down and the Thule begin to pack supplies and dismantle their camps. Within days they are gone, their forces marching north and west, taking up new positions in Krevsaty. Scouts suggest the fortified camp at the ruins of old Oloy has been greatly expanded; the isolated defenders of the Krevsaty Yelta watch the Thule foraging bands with some trepidation.
Meanwhile, the banner of the Golden Axe flies over Lestazny. The army camps not far from the remnants of the vale of Ivarsgard, down on the shores of the Semmerlak. Ivarsgard is already being reclaimed by the hungry forest. A few companies are dispatched to root out the wolves that have taken up residence in the ruins. and in the empty mine workings - but they do not present much of a challenge for seasoned Varushkan warriors.
In the north, the warriors of the Charnel Lord - Varushkan and orc alike - hold their positions around the Broken Hill. There is no sign of the unnatural, undying warriors that have fought against the Thule in previous seasons. Raven messengers fly back and forth between the leaders of this enigmatic force, and the Senators and Generals of Varushka. Something is in the air - but the details are not clear at this time.
There are no engagements in Karsk between the Thule and the Empire as Summer lengthens into Autumn. Cautious for signs of Thule treachery, the Golden Axe maintains a solid defence. Injured troops rest, broken equipment is repaired or replaced (to the profit of the miners of Moresvah). More than one captain slopes off to visit the Sovereign’s Heart in the ruins of fallen Isember. There is peace - or as much peace as one finds in Varushka.
[size=150]IN SERMERSUAQ, THE THULE ADVANCE[/size]
Down out of the upper passes, cautious for signs of an Imperial betrayal. They regain the ground lost last season in the Stonefields, and when it is clear that there is no Imperial opposition they move quickly and cleanly to take control of the Ice Caves. They give the retreating Imperial forces plenty of time to quit their positions.
The Green Shield watch from the open plains of East Floes and Suaq Fount, ready to drive the orcs back if they try to move even one inch out of the foothills. The Thule orcs make no effort to push beyond the peaks. The other Imperial armies have already left by the time they take the Stonefield Ice Caves.
The banner of a great white dire-wolf flies over the Silver Peaks now. Perhaps as many as five thousand Imperial soldiers were killed, or maimed, or lost the will to fight in the year since the Thule invaded Sermersuaq. Many of their bodies were never accounted for, lost in the broken canyons and buried beneath stone or snow. Nearly five thousand Thule fell alongside them. Yet there is little sign of the bodies - voracious Spring magic bred flowers from the corpses of the fallen. The Thule will see an excellent bladeroot harvest.
There are no significant engagements between the Empire and the Thule, just the smooth surrender of the northern peaks to the orcs. If there is frustration among the Wintermark troops, they use that anger against the enemies they ‘‘can’’ attack - against the Jotun raiders testing the defences of Wintermark. The Jotun raiders receive a savage beating, abandoning their raids and retreating quickly - just shy of a rout - back across the western borders. There is peace in Sermersuaq - for now.
So, the first Winds of War report is actually a Winds of Peace report. Thanks to the peace treaty approved by the Seante, there has been no more fighting.
The Thule foces have withdrawn from Crowslook and Branoc - but they are not quite part of the Empire yet. Those regions are now effectively neutral, belonging to neither side. A campaign army could move into the regions and conquer them, potentially without resistance. The matter of the troops loyal to the third power in Karsk - to the sovereign known as the Charnel Lord - still awaits resolution … but that’s something we can talk about later.
In Sermersuaq, incontrast it is the Empire that withdraws. The Thule, apparently trusting the Empire to keep it’s peace treaty, have advanced into the areas they have abandoned. The region of the Silver Peaks now belongs to the Thule - as does the ilium producing Bourse seat known as the Stonefield Ice Caves.
The photograph is a Tom Garnett special, showing Veikko of Sigehold Hall (Michael Kilburn) - but I was taken with how well it works for Varushka as well as Wintermark.