Echoes of Glory
Sir Reese Darahan, Deputy Marshal of the Opparan Prefect, was the man tasked to take a small party north, to a run-down keep called Blackthorn, to validate claims of rightful conquest by Imperial decree. He was ready to depart within the afternoon, but politics forced his delay.
Conflicting reports were brought forward by various factions: Some said the area was still embroiled in fighting and the “conquest” was far from certain. Others said there was reason to doubt the validity of the Blackthorn claim (a prospect that became more damning when Captain Clark could not be reached by any means, magical or mundane). Parties loyal to House Disaren soon emerged to air their grievances and stall the deliberations further.
They were quick to drag the Fiddich name through the mud. The family was weathly but not noble, which (they argued) spoke to riches gained through robbery, smuggling, or fraud. The Southern Isles were well-known, they continued, to be home to none but bloodthirsty savages, and any who bore that land’s name as a title could only be a pirate and murderess of the worst kind. Lastly, this “Dread” creature was clearly inhuman, a summoned demon or construct, illegally obtained in any case.
The waters grew muddier when House Bourtz began to use their substantial pull to petition for aid. House Disaren was able to block these requests for a time, but before anyone knew it, Clay Bourtz, only son of the tribune himself, was standing on the senate floor, demanding soldiers with his sword drawn. The problem was no longer neatly contained, and had grown very, very public. In a narrow, split decision, it was decided: Oppara would send soldiers to Evondemor, and by extension, Blackthorn as well.
Sir Darahan was given command of the resulting army, nicknamed “Oppara’s Hammer”, which was made up of the 109th Infantry Legion, several cohorts of Opparan Auxiliary, and the 91st Heavy Ballista battery, known as the “Breakers,” as well as a small company of Zimar cataphracts, loyal to Darahan personally.
Magical scrying and fast scouts quickly revealed that Evondemor had already fallen to a massed attack by a large bandit group known as the Reavers. A counter attack was drawn up as the army mobilized. In keeping with the trend, this attack was titled “Hammerfall” and its proposed date marked in correspondence simply as “H-Day”
Two days prior to H-Day
As Oppara’s Hammer marched north, the Reaver stranglehold on Evondemor was broken by a surprise attack by Eagle Knight commandos. Appearing from the mist as if they’d been summoned, the Andoran troops crushed the Reaver picket lines and shattered their leadership in less than an hour. What remained of the bandit forces fled north as the Eagle Knights vanished back into the mist.
A back room meeting between Andoran and Taldan diplomats would later take place, and the official story that emerged from that meeting was that the Golden Legion had been acting at the behest of Taldan officials, for the mutual benefit of both countries. What was not mentioned was that the Eagle Knights had left one of their number behind, their newest sister knight, whose induction into their order would remain unknown except at the highest levels of Eagle Knight command.
One day before Hammerfall
Numerous miscommunications and bad assumptions plagued every actor in the coming war. 200 men from the Disaren Regulars, an auxiliary outfit better paid and equipped than most full time Legions, had been marching toward Evondemor until they learned the Reavers had been driven out, and that Oppara’s Hammer was right behind them. Thinking the Opparan army had been responsible for defeating the bandit force, the Regulars turned back the way they came, hoping to reconnect with the 75th Heavy Legion and Captain Plagius. The 75th had split off to block the road into Blackthorn. Having lost most of their scouts the week before to guerrilla attacks by Blackthorn rangers, their estimation of Blackthorn’s available army had been highly inflated, and they expected counterattack.
The Regulars sent word to the 75th via spell that Oppara had marched north, and defeated the Reavers, and in response they themselves had decided to withdraw. The 75th’s scouts soon spotted the Disaren Regular army, but mistakenly reported them to their superiors as Oppara’s army. Plagius, rightly fearing an army that could drive the entrenched Reavers from Evondemor and still have the strength to march on him, ordered an immediate withdrawal.
Meanwhile, a handful of advance riders from Darahan’s army, led by Sergeant Major Clover, arrived in time to witness the 75th’s hasty retreat, and mistakenly took this to mean that Disaren’s forces had captured one or all of the Blackthorn knights. Clover gave chase, staying out of sight until nightfall, when he deemed it prudent to get a closer look. In a turn of bad luck, however, his horse stepped in a hole and broke its leg, and the shrieks of the wounded animal alerted the 75th’s outriders to his presence. Clover was promptly captured.
Unknown to the good sergeant or his captors, Glenn Fiddich and Dread had also been following the path of the 75th, and during Clover’s interrogation by Plagius, they sprang into action. Plagius was dead in seconds, along with nearly all his knights.
Meanwhile, the Disaren Regulars, finding the 75th Legion had vanished and still believing that Oppara’s Hammer was on their heels, made a fateful decision: A midnight attack on Blackthorn, if successful, would give them a fortress in which they could withstand a future assault. They had the manpower, the siege weapons, and the element of surprise, but they didn’t count on Lagatha.
Oppara’s Hammer moved against Evondemor; thousands of men expecting fierce resistance. In defiance of their expectations and carefully laid plans, they saw no hostile action that day, except for the Tribune angrily demanding to know where in the hell they’d been.
Dawn broke over Blackthorn to find Gorum’s champion standing tall in a river of blood. Lagatha and the warriors of Hydra’s Hollow had lasted the night, and the Disaren Regulars broke, unwilling to risk a long-term siege. They fled directly towards Disaren, eschewing the main roads in favor of the swampy cover of the old canal.
The 75th, their command structure utterly broken by Blackthorn’s midnight raid, also fled directly for home.
H-Day + 1.
Oppara’s Hammer marched at first light, leaving behind a couple cohorts of the auxiliary and the Breakers to protect Evondemor. They arrived at Hydra’s Hollow in the aftermath of the battle. Glenn, Dread, and Clover’s Cataphracts had beaten them there, but not by much.
Though official ceremony would have to wait, Sir Darahan informed Glenn, Lagatha, and Dread that they were knights as far as he was concerned, then took the time to reorganize his army with the new knights and several of their most trusted cohorts in the ranks.
At the same time, the Knights of the Gold (Commanded by Lord Restov), a feared cavalry unit that had once been loyal to Evondemor but had been absorbed by the growing power of Disaren, had marched south with reinforcements from the Regulars and the 2nd Penitent Cohort, a penal group of criminal – soldiers known as the 2nd Chancers. They intercepted the Eastmarch Regulars near the crossroads, and were unimpressed by the survivors’ stories of unstoppable warrior women. The Knights consolidated the Regulars into one army, and then turned them back towards Hydra’s Hollow.
H-Day + 2.
The Disaren Regulars marched back through the marshy lowlands of the old canal, back the way some of them had previously fled. The 2nd Chancers stayed on the high ground, headed for the land bridge, while the Knights of the Gold stayed just behind, ready to charge into the fray to help either group at a moment’s notice.
Oppara’s Hammer wasted little time, marching forth from Hydra’s Hollow to meet the enemy. Dame Lagatha had been given command of the 109th, with Sir Dread by her side as the Legion Champion. The Blackthorn Bombards had been taken from their mounts and converted to field artillery, with the help of the catapult carriages. The bulk of the unit was made of Hydra’s Hollow militia, with Alkenstar Artillery Corpsmen as technical advisers and Sir Glenn Fiddick in command.
It was a massacre. The Regulars had taken position in the lowlands, and the bombards tore them to pieces. The 109th, under Dame Lagatha’s command, charged straight into the fray, cutting the survivors apart. The Knights of the Gold attempted a flanking maneuver but were hindered by the terrain; by the time they could react, the 109th was victorious. The 2nd Chancers rushed the bombards, but by that time the fight in the swamp was over and the guns turned against them. The few who survived the artillery barrage were subsequently crushed when Sir Fiddick led the Evondemor Dragoons in a counter attack.
The Knights of the Gold were able to escape with the majority of their number intact, but no other force of significant strength was able to escape.