The War Before Winter

Within lies the tale of the great war of 745, told by the honourable Lord Oskar Sigmund through personal accounts and the accounts of others serving in the victorious army of the Marquis.


And so it is the 14th of Rutting ECR 745 and the War has begun.

The Armies March Forth

The sight of an entire army, an eclectic mix of men, metal and horses, receiving the blessings of the Grand Cleric of Dragar is something I will never forget and that all men should hope to some day witness. Soldiers and sergeants in their hauberks of chain and brigandine, carrying swords and maces alongside their traditional pikes stood still at attention, a full half of the troops mounted on fine Vargarian steeds. Raising to their lips tokens and charms of lightning bolts, hammers and fists, the men pray as one as they hear the magically amplified Prayer of Battle, the Grand Cleric on his altar preaching Dragar’s might to thousands.

So it was that the combined might of the Prince of Varg, Houses Eichberg and Lindberg, the city houses and a mass of others march forward to war. An army of some 7000 leaves behind it a ruined campsite; a home and training ground for weeks now an empty plot of lifeless land.

At the front of the army, as is their right, ride the nobility. Columns of some thousand nobles, their guards formed around them in tight formation upon their steeds. At the head of the column, the Marquis himself rides resplendent in his burnished breastplate and golden mask, white tiger pelt cloak draped over the back of his midnight warhorse, a full complement of noble hussars riding at his wings. After the Marquis comes the might of the Vargschool, these usually hidden mages now marching to war with their prince. Wearing black robes and the half skull masks of sanctioned war-mages, their appearance does not even begin to show the fear in which ordinary folk should hold them. They are the true force here, each worth hundreds of ordinary soldiers and capable of massive destruction. Ever loyal to these wizards and sorcerers are the Vargschool knights, travelling behind their masters in full-plate armour with various weapons. Amongst them the occasional warrior in black leather and cloaks, sporting the sigils of either the wolves of Dragar, Vargschool or Marquis, six such warriors ride up with the Marquis himself. The Clergy, not to be outdone by any nobles, have their own forces. Some twenty Bolts with a contingent of a century of Fists march forward in strength. Amongst the Bolts ride a pair of tieflings, chained and bound with sky metal alloy, their stub horns cut off and capped in metal. These creatures considered unholy made holy by the power of the church. Heads bowed low the creatures are marked with a tattoo of Dragar upon their heads, deemed able to fight by their minders they will march for the Marquis’ glory. Next come the minor nobles, noble warriors riding with their double hussar wings singing in the wind. Eichberg holds the greatest numbers as expected, a full four centuries of the hussars sporting their colours.

After these fine warriors would come the meat of the army, the foot. Marching in loose formation now, pikes and crossbows shouldered, with commanders of nobler birth riding on horses amongst them. It is from this point that I view the army set off, surrounded by the men that I would fight and bleed alongside. Their lower blood and my noble, mingled together on the swords and arrows of our foes. Next along come the strangest and most dangerous of the Prince of Vargs forces. The beast masters, some forty nobles and esoteric individuals walk amongst their creatures. Most common are the closed cages of war-dogs and horse sized monitors, but there are also five of the Marquis’ prized white Gryffons, hoods hiding their heads, and 100 or so battle-wolves ready to maul their enemies. Although fearsome as they are, beasts of nightmare followed them. The Royal Volg, creatures I had only heard tales of and am honoured to have encountered, now and later more importantly in battle later. Reeking and hooded, the Volgs horrible forms lumber forward. Their bodies are twice the size of a horse, a snake like shape with a hunched shoulders and a lizard like gate, despite the body between their powerful limbs. The smell of musk and brimstone, with dark black scales the size of shields, flecks of red shimmer glossily shining across their scaly hides. An elite beast master rides at each foot, chains in hand attached to the hood of each of the creature’s heads.

And it is this that we unleash upon the rebels. Dragar help them.

Opening Moves

It is a three day march to Norstad and the army keeps it's moral despite the cold nights. Each night an area of some square mile of ground is cleared for the camp and the men settle in, weary from a day of hard marching. The nobles tend to their horses and enjoy wine and games of cards in their tents. The commoners sleep outside in blankets but their cheer does not wain despite this. Each night songs of victory and glory are sung around large campfires. I use this time to get to know the men I will be leading. Not merely the rabbles of militia, these men are trained and battle hardened soldiers. I talk strategy with my sergeants and share wine, hopeful for the fight to come. On the third night word goes up amongst the soldiers that a raven had reached us bringing news from the west. The enemy had attacked Osthem and were taking part in a siege. While shocking that they would dare attack the rightful rulers of that land, this tactically came as no surprise and gave the men a clear task after the sacking of Norstad. The fortress-city itself comes into sight on the 16th of Rutting and the army approaches it, still full of vigour.

Newly placed ballista emplacements now guard the cities switchback, with trebuchets mounted on the walls. Pennants of Nors fly in there hundreds on the walls, the moral of the city clearly intact despite the death of much of it’s noble house in weeks previous. As the army sets up camp the engineers are sent out with the druids, hoping to first be granted the right to cut down the trees in the forest and then with these trees create the siege weaponry necessary to take a fortress such as Norstad. The first night of the siege official passes without incident, the scouts reporting no attacks on the lines and the city’s siege equipment stays quiet for now. On the first day after we arrived at Norstad the Marquis rides out to meet the diplomats of the traitors. The golden masked Prince of Varg meets with the serpent-tongued representatives of house Nors but he is not swayed be their lies. They refuse to surrender to our greater forces and ride back behind their walls like the cowards they are. Then, after two days and nights of camping on the cold ground amongst the trees and wooded hills around Norstad, the trebuchets are ready and the Marquis calls for the assault to commence.

Norstad

The night after the war machines were ready, the attack began. As the rest of the army waits, the Vargschool mages ready themselves for the opening throws of the battle. The mages disappear one by one and as they do spurts of fire sprout on the city walls. Not even a minute later the war-mages reappear back in the army, a few injuries amongst them but almost all covered in the soot and debris of destroyed siege engines. I would later learn from an associate of mine that the mages had travelled by some witchcraft onto the walls and set about destroying the siege engines there. This showed a marvellous stroke of military thought by the Marquis and he must be applauded for it, for it may have won us the battle. As the mages return to the lines the siege begins in earnest, the trebuchets firing upon the walls blasting those atop them as well as crashing gaping holes in the walls themselves. Under a sky dark with missiles, the army advanced on foot. Here the mages step in again, throwing fireballs and boulders into the gaps to disperse any enemies who thought to try to hold them. Likewise crossbowmen appeared on the walls and were destroyed in quick succession by the fireballs, lightning and rays of energy shot from the hands of these fearsome mages.

I was part of the less elegant less magical part of the battle, the taking of the switchback and the street-by-street clearing of House Nors’ forces. It’s what the nobility refer to in complacent tones as the “blood work” and blood was surely spilled on the stone of Norstad. As part of the second wave of attackers I reached the front as we were just making our way up the switchback and did my part to lead my men to the top. The fighting was fierce, friend and foe alike pushed in together as pikes and swords were met with flesh and steel on both sides. After what seemed like an age of combat, the attacking forces pushed their way through on other fronts and tension eased for us, allowed the attack to push successfully up through the gates and into the city proper. It was here that the forces of the Marquis dispersed, moving from street to street taking out the archers and militia of the enemy. To us the battle seemed won. The enemy had lost the advantage of its walls but nevertheless they stood their ground, dying honourably before us as we pushed further into the city. Ultimately it was two days of hard fighting before the city was ours and the banner of the Marquis flew high above the fortress.

The taking of the city took it’s toll on the loyalist forces. Some two thousand men died in the siege of Norstad, with those holding the city losing almost all of the men they had arranged before us. During the day of feasting to celebrate, the Marquis executes the entirety of House Nors personally, an honour affording for the valiant defense of the keep they had made the earlier day. After the day of feasting and celebration is ended the army readies itself to set out once more, to relieve Osthem. The Prince leaves behind a good thousand men, led by my father Vestar Hasjer. The honour of leading the House Hajser hussars falls to my brother, Vestar Hajser II, and it is one I envy him for, as there is much glory to be found in the charge. Nevertheless war awaited us in the west and we set off at pace.

The Battle of Osthem

The March to Osthem was not an easy one. Fatigued from battle what remained of the army made slow going through the back roads and muddied paths of the countryside.

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