Winds of war: under a crimson sky

[size=150]UNDER A CRIMSON SKY[/size]

Crusade! Say the word softly, and see the banners raised in the Dawnish mind’s eye. With the Hounds of Glory and the Eastern Sky fighting in distant Urizen, and the Gryphon’s Pride not yet ready to march, it falls to the Golden Sun to raise those banners over Dawnguard. Into the Barrens they march, the first Dawnish army in the Barrens in generations.

Alongside them come the Towerjacks of Holberg, and the Varushkan Golden Axe. They strike their camp in the shadow of the Towers of the Dawn and prepare to defend the Dawnish territory. The crusade has had the desired effect, it seems. The armies are joined by some six thousand Dawnish troops lead by independent captains, and one band of Imperial Orcs. The auxilliary forces are split roughly half-and-half between directly supporting the Golden Sun and garrisoning the Towers of the Dawn.

The armies are ordered to avoid engagements with the barbarian orcs as much as possible, merely attempting to slow their advance. There is some dissent from the Dawnish captains outraged by the inglorious defensive strategy, but the orders are clear. Give ground, do not engage except where necessary, let the enemy come to us.

And come they do. The armies of the indigenous orcs attack with passionate zeal, throwing themselves into an all-out assault against the Towers of the Dawn and the Imperial defenders. Even though they are significantly outnumbered, they fight desperately; one last-ditch attempt to try and claim Dawnguard. They are still doing their best to avoid unnecessary casualties; in some ways the presence of the Imperial forces makes this easier. It is much easier to tell the civilians from the warriors when they are arrayed in a crusaders panoply.

Just over a fortnight after the end of the Winter Solstice, just as the fighting is beginning to heat up, the unexpected occurs.

A malign miasma falls over the Barrens. It comes without warning; one morning the twilight before sunrise is tinged with a deep, malevolent crimson. The rain that falls is oily, heavy, thick with the implication of sickness and dread. Corrpution creeps into the water. A thin film of foulness covers everything from breakfast wine to garden ponds to fountains to the bee-painted waterskins of the Varushkans. The rivers run with death, and uncleanliness. Blood flows sluggishly; injuries do not heal. No wound is suffered save that it festers, turns black. The soldiers of Holberg mutter with grim certainty. They have had a great deal of experience with these conditions, having fought for decades under the periodic taint of this particular curse.

It strikes both sides; the knights of Dawn and the barbaric orcs feel its sting in equal measure. Yet it is the barbarians who suffer the lion’s share of casualties. The Imperial tactic of withdrawing back to the defences in the face of orc aggression minimizes losses, at the same time as the twisted enchantment causes the deaths of so many who might otherwise have survived.

The orcs fight on as best they can, but they make little progress against the Imperial defenders. As the year draws to a close, the noble estates of Dawnguard are littered with the corpses of dead orcs.

As the Spring Equinox comes closer, rumours of fighting in the south begin to percolate through the ranks in Dawnguard. A force of Navarr have attacked the orcish supply trains, burning several villages belonging to the Great Forest orcs, slaughtering their inhabitants, then fading back into the woods. Speculation suggests this is the work of special forces attached to the Quiet Step. Whatever else it acheives, it almost certainly puts paid to any suggestion of an alliance between the Navarr and the Barrens orcs.

The Imperial forces in Dawnguard have held off the orcish attack, but it was a close-run thing. The presence of the malign magic spread across the Barrens has resulted in significant casualties - to the orcs. The defensive orders of the Imperials mean that they have suffered perhaps a fifth as many casualties as the Barrens orcs, and a significant amount of the damage inflicted has been absorbed by the white granite and weirwood of the Towers of the Dawn - the fortification takes damage that might otherwise have killed over six hundred Imperial soldiers.


Nobody has gained any ground - the Barrens orcs still have control of a portion of Dawnguard. It is possibly worth pointing out at this time that one of the things that has saved Imperial lives has been the damage to the Towers of the Dawn - damage to fortifications tends to represent broken walls rather than dead soldiers - and the apparent reticence of the orcs to murder unarmed civillians.

#gloryetc, #underabloodredskywastaken, #damnyoubono