The Eldjotun Conflict
Initial News from the Warfront. (Immediately after the First Foray.)
The khan Osksurt blazes a fiery trail across the mountains, hoping to drive through to Blasingdell, laying waste to the mountain town. King Rollo of the Dwarves, who but for his generous nature would hold that place in his thrall, moves his dwarven infantry into the mountain pass to deny the advance. Osksurt’s scouts report small and scattered dwarven bands, and the khan determines that a full assault will break the dwarven lines back to Blasingdell. The khan loses the ogre vanguard over a period of one week, their numbers simply dwindling without any actual reported contact with the enemy. Their bodies are not found. Once the rockslides begin claiming a significant portion of her main force, Osksurt makes the fatal mistake to turn back, hoping to come at Blasingdell through a different pass. The dwarven infantry emerges from their tunnels on both sides of the giant force and beneath it, laying waste to the soldiers. Devastators are unable to get into position, hurlers are hitting their own, the result is giant chaos. Rollo meets Osksurt in single combat, Honor splitting her skull after a tense fight.
Giant cavalry. Mounted on massive steam hogs, driving a vanguard of undermen, beastfolk and trolls before them, the Firetusks of Khan Ildmane tear through human defenses. Displaced goblinoids, long living without disturbing the lands of man, head southwest, away from the giant advance, into Julvania, Heredon and Storgard. The forces of Almaaz and Storgard are slowly forced to give ground.
Prince Vassa of the merfolk undams a mountain river, drowning a cohort of trolls, allowing those that manage to drag themselves out to be dispatched easily by torch wielding infantry from Alsoor on the shore. The same trick looks to be working slightly less effectively on a band of ildjot infantry, when an archon of Tal descends down upon the battlefield, holding its trumpet ready. Cheered, the armies of Alsoor rally forth against the giants, only to find themselves holding false confidence. The archon pronounces a fate of doom upon the filth they ally with, and the waters begin to boil. Another blast from the trumpet fills them with fear, and the humans flee while the merfolk scream. The giants feast on fish that night.
Julian sends Rollo a message of congratulations, and to his field commanders, Alva, Shella, and the others, a suggestion – perhaps the cart-ballistas can match the boar cavalry for speed and perhaps, if the boars are as ill-tempered as their mortal counterparts, such wounds might drive them into the frenzy that hunters of mortal-size boars are all too familiar with. The mounted crossbowmen of the cavalry, too, though their smaller missiles seem less promising. He gives no commands, though, leaving practical decisions to those commanders closer to the action.
On hearing the evil news of the setback on the Alsoor front, he responds with a warning of the foe’s by now all too evident love of using false forms and deceptions, for whatever good it may do, and he seeks word of what new forces may have mustered at the Beornsburh and now be available as reinforcements – though again, decisions on where and how to dispatch these reserves are left to the field commanders.
“You’re right to send reinforcements and trust your leaders on the ground. Your place is here for now. The next war you can lead from the front line,” Kryss advises.
Second News from the Warfront
(A few weeks after the Second Foray.)
Heredon’s armies clash with advancing goblinoid groups, displaced from the mountains by the jotunbrud armies. Lord Boaz slays a hobgoblin warlord in personal combat, sending the goblins into a rout.
An attempt to retake Julvania by a troop of ghouls and wights led by a Sengir neonate finds themselves beating a hasty retreat through the forests, lycan rangers hot on their trail. Several are carried off by gargoyles as well.
Dragonfyre forces encounter the vanguard of the giants commanded by Khan Haaskarth, former advisor to Jarl Grugnur. Lady Shella delivers the killing blow to the firewrack dragon they have with them, avenging numerous thorps and hamlets that had been set ablaze in the Blasingdell region. They are joined by a band of centaur warriors, claiming a blood debt in the name of ‘Princess’ Hylonni. Together, the forces set their sights on stopping Haaskarth’s advance.
One hundred elven boots of the winterlands (as elvenkind plus winterlands), six thousand elven cloaks of the winterlands (as elvenkind plus winterlands sans cold resist) and forty thousand fire elven blankets (just the temp resist aspect of winterlands boots) are delivered to Dragonfyre.
The region north of Oakhurst and east of Julvania is a constant source of beastmen and ogre forces emerging to menace and raid the human countryside. The Oakhurst garrison is sorely pressed, as more and more wandering monsters seem to find their way directly to the fort.
Several thunder rocs with mounted Uvar riders fly over the battlefield, performing hit and runs that break up ildjot forces. They are however, mistaken as hostile by Onella and Almaaz forces, and one roc is shot down.
Hedge mages and ‘unusual’ people from Ossington come into conflict with an Onella cavalry band after multiple catchy songs about how they employ black magic make their way across the battlefields. After several tense standoffs, they are ambushed by a ildjot troop, the leader of which wields the captured spear Assail. The timely arrival of the sphinx Dinee saves them from complete slaughter, but she is found dead the next morning, her throat wrapped in a yellow cord.
Shael encourages Ossington forces to remember the enemy is not above manipulating them to gain their edge – stoking the enminity between Onella, Almaaz and Ossington & their allies is certainly a tactic and one that bore them fruit. He encourages all commanders to be wary of Thak’s assassins and makes some efforts to reach out to his contacts to understand why this one acted in a way that benefits Imperagon’s forces. ((If he can, he divines; “Why was Dinee assassinated?” and communes with Serra to ask, “Is there a way we can bring her back with the resources we have?” and “Is there a commander we could assign in her place to thwart the cause of her assassination?” as well as his usual, “Are you well?”))
Convening with Julian, Shael wonders how they can mitigate or eliminate all of the ‘friendly fire’ – there is already too much, but it is those forces more closely aligned to Julian that seem to be causing it so Shael expresses his uncertainty in how to resolve it. “It is too much to simply separate the theatres they battle in – the Ossington irregulars and Onella calvary both need to be agile.”
Once Shael is confident he has as good an understanding of the battlefield as he’s able, he makes sure his agents are aware they may use the same tactics against the Giants as have been used against them. Turn the ranks against one another, make the enemy’s secrets known to one another, create strife. He advises that they may be creative with the truth, but encourages them not to lie lest the tactic lose its affect.
Third News from the Warfront
(Shortly after the Third Foray.)
Shella’s forces, bolstered by centaur cavalry, ride to the defense of Oakhurst and find it pincered between cursed orcs from Cothos Mountain and the Firetusks of Ildmane. The rugged Oakhurst garrison fights fiercely, but they are outnumbered and the orcs do not suffer wounds from common steel. In the fray, Shella is ambushed and dehorsed by a contingent of devastators. Three of her firbolg bodyguard are slaughtered, the fourth paralyzed with a shattered spine. A trio of brave dwarves, Eben, Magda and Ifor, throw themselves to her defense. Eben is slain, and the other two suffer serious wounds fighting furiously to save the commander. When it seems like there is no hope left, the steam hogs and their riders are routed by scores of cave bears. The bears arrive on the scene driven by steinthurs mountain walkers who rain down a hail of boulders upon their fiery cousins. Former Jarlinde Estia is among the bears, laying about fiercely with her spiked mace.
Giant supply lines, particularly those of an orcish or ogrish nature, are constantly being cut, due to the efforts of saboteurs led by Hrothgar the Sly. One particularly impressive success actually framed the ogre chief involved for the loss of the supplies, leading to actual combat between the ogres and ildjot. While only minimal fatalities were on the giant’s side, the ogres were decimated.
In contrast, Dulce Tirrel keeps their own supply lines constantly appraised of incoming threats, so that those ambushes and attacks that are launched against them fail or cost the enemy forces more than they were worth. Between his information and the Dragonfyre Goods Limited stocks of supply, the humans are able to enter their combats at full strength more often than not.
Donal of Clearwater and Gavin Strongbow distinguish themselves as crack archers, to the point where they are placed in Vilhart’s ranger squad. They both fall for his red haired second in command, Adowyn, and compete endlessly for her attention.
While the Albrin militia is not ready to sortie against giants, their mayor and former bandit lord Kipkemboi rides out at Lilac’s urging with some of his old fellow rogues and the Dragonfyre garrison to harry the orcs from Cothos Mountain, who have taken up at the ruined shrine. They are able to disrupt the orcs camp by setting it aflame, although the orcs themselves are not harmed by the human weapons. Lilac herself however, slays one of their champions, her fae daggers disemboweling him before his warriors and causing them to flee.
The forces in the Blasingdell mountain region report cloud giants frequently seeming to aid the fire giants. While they are not seen with fire giant forces (which are seldom following the death of Osksurt), they react with extreme hostility when the humans come across their path.
The Silver Swords go up against a horde of trolls in the fire giant vanguard. One of the troll leaders demonstrates an absolutely insane level of vitality, growing new trolls from each piece they cut off, even from each drop of his blood that splashes upon the ground. Fire is not entirely effective against it, and they lack a ready supply of acid to test whether that will work. The Swords dub this creature Erythnul, which means ‘The Many’ in the troll dialect of Jotun. The Swords break off the assault to avoid ‘recruiting’ a second horde for the creature.
The elven adventurers Julian has hired to supplement the Dragonfyre forces employ magic in combat. While rumors already abound regarding the lax adherence to Tal’s laws when it comes to Dragonfire Dyrr and Ossington, the presence of elven mages becomes a concern of Onellan forces and an angry sore for those from Almaaz. Thus far the Dragonfyre forces have avoided confrontation with the Onellans and strive to keep the elves away from the Talsworn knights. However, through luck or deliberate mischief, they keep ending up near each other. The elves are not willing to stop using their magic in battle, but they are willing to leave the fighting of giants to humans if it becomes too onerous to bear.
A troop of Onellan cavalry is caught out in the open during a particularly horrific ice storm. None of them survive. The Almaaz who discover the wind strewn and lightning scorched bodies claim the Uvar are to blame for the storm. Although their leader, Comte de Rochefort, is dubious as to this theory and does what he can to suppress it, it spreads across the Onellan forces that no giant is to be trusted. Rochefort is annoyed, both at the lack of discipline in his command and the prospect that the rumor might bring his forces into needless conflict with storm giants.
As the ildjot armies lay siege to Blasingdell, the decision is made to recover the Butcher’s Cleaver to use against them. Even if it is too large for humans, perhaps one of the allied firbolg, steinthurs or Uvar will be able to wield it. However, when the triple locked metal container it has been buried in has been disarmed of protective runes, arcane traps and masterwork metallurgic barriers, they find it empty.
Soulforged undermen swarm out over the Kher Ridge, bearing the banner of an eye with teeth. Much of the steinthurs reinforcements are diverted to slowing the flow of these mutant savages. When they do encounter human forces, even in defeat they inflict grievous harm upon their foes. Their bites fester, and those bitten eventually become aggressive and hostile themselves. There are not enough priests to cure the bitten, and in one case, the unit lost their priest, who was bitten by one of the victims in the process of trying to heal him. The bites of the human infected seem to take longer to manifest, but the sickness can be spread by them all the same.
Human mages inexplicably determine that the conflict with the giants is the ideal time to unveil themselves in large settlements such as Brindinford, Almaaz, Alsoor and Heredon. Several brazen and ill thought out attacks are launched, complete with lightning bolts, fireballs and life draining grasps. Some even manage to add kidnapping and human sacrifice to the mix before they are put down. While the attacks ultimately amount to little on a strategic level, the loss of life and property damage turns public support harshly against magic. Inquisitor Melantha in particular is furious at what she calls a betrayal of mercy. Having personally and singlehandedly put down the attack in Brindinford, her voice rings loudly across the region.
Julian dispatches instructions that fitting weregild be paid for the Uvar friendly fire incident and downed roc, which is to include a recently recovered roc egg. Though the paladin suspects the Paramount of the Uvar will react pragmatically to occasional mishaps within the fog of war, he elects nevertheless not to take that reaction for granted.
Several artifacts are dispatched homeward so that weapons the party cannot wield themselves might perhaps be put to good use by allied champions.
Julian requests some of the party’s personnel who are more focused on lore and less on direct combat (such as the Librarians if Shael is willing to involve them) to research mysteries such as the undermens’ curse, the orcs’ resilience against weapons, or the insane vitality of The Many.
He makes his opinion known to their commanders that a mysterious ice storm seems more likely to be the work of remnant loyalists of Jarl Grugnur than it does the Uvar. Likewise, he suggests darkly that sorcerers launching ill-thought-out suicide attacks may well be pawns of the Sengirs, much like the ones caught and killed in Dragonfire and Fort Oakhurst earlier that year. He warns Melantha as well as other leaders that such behavior might well stem from the vampires’ powers to befog and charm mortal minds, though the paladin has no panacea solution beyond vigilance.
“If things go on like this, men may begin to think that having once battled them, I am now too quick to see vampires in every shadow.” he remarks to Kryss after dictating the last message, “but I cannot shake the suspicion that this is their hand raised against us once again.”
“If so, God willing we will soon hew it off. If we can cast Imperagon down and stop his forgework, even so there will be scores to settle after before the victory is complete.”
“Some times it feels like the Sengir are reaching out with a different appendage than their hand,” Kryss says darkly.
“Then they had better be ready to lose that appendage as well.”
Julian takes and lets out a deep breath. “But my heart has been burning for that for long years now.”
“You’re telling me,” Kryss replies. “I feel like even though Gulthias is destroyed, it isn’t enough to repay what he did to Dara.”
“No.” The force of the word echoes around the confines of the lava tubes. “By God, it is not nearly enough.”
Fiery light breaks from Julian’s eyes for a moment, but he closes them and when he opens them again, it is gone. “But it was not enough yesterday, and it will not be enough tomorrow. It will do us no good to sit here and drink the dregs of our bitterness.”
“The rakasha claims there is a way to bring her back,” Kryss says, broaching the subject with Julian for the first time.
Julian nods. “Do you mean to attempt it?”
“How would you advise me?”
“The same as I would advise Shael. Or myself of a decade past, if I could. Seek to understand the choice first, and only then decide.”
“That is my only word on matters of half-understood magic.”
“As with Shael’s ritual?”
Julian does not contradict this.
“How do you still trust us, Julian? After Shael freezes the land for months and you watch me kill an elf royal in cold blood, how do you look past that? Why haven’t you ridden away on your fae steed and left all our problems behind you?”
“You’re not one of my problems, Kryss.”
“I’ve seen you make mistakes, which is the lot of man, and try to mend them, which is the act of a good man. One I am glad to count my friend.”
Kryss slaps Julian’s shoulder with a giant paw, “You’ll make a fine king.”
“Thank you, Kryss.”
“You already make a fine man.”
“My mother did leave me several good recipes,” Kryss says, cracking a smile.
“I can only imagine.”
Julian rubs his eyes and turns his mind back to the missives being received and sent from their commanders. “Our folk are being criticized by the Onellans about our alliance with the elves,” he remarks, “and our leaders have sought advice on how to answer them.”
“I am minded to say we should reply thus, that it is an alliance we made on Onellan advice, and not the least among Onellans but that of Klysandral, prince among their knights. If they now think his counsel wrong, perhaps they should summons him to come before them and answer for it, but for our part having made the alliance we shall not prove faithless to it.”
Fourth News from the Warfront
(Some time after the third foray.)
Keldon forces cut a swathe three miles wide through the fire giant supply lines out of Muspelhaus. Scores of giants lie dead in the wake of the advance. The Keldon reputation spreads across the battlefields, and voices from Almaaz begin raising the question…who will make the Keldons leave once the giants are no more?
The Drott Ilya Murometz appears on mountain battlefields north of Blasingdell, beating back the giants of Thrasmotnir whenever he shows, whether it is by giving heart to beleaguered human forces, or singlehandedly cutting down those giants that choose to oppose him. More than a few battle groups, having been saved by his timely arrival, forswear Tal in favor of Tyr. The Drott does nothing to encourage nor discourage this reaction.
General Alva consolidates command of the forces of Dragonfyre, drawing them back out of the mountains where the fighting is the fiercest. Though she is roundly criticized for this action, from Onella and Almaaz, her maneuver pays off when giants pursing a perceived advantage come into conflict with the orcs of Cothos Mountain while she regroups at Fort Oakhurst. The giant line, stretched too thin already, collapses in the wake of several losses to the unusually hardy orcs. The orcs, having lost heavily at Albrin and Oakhurst, begin raiding elsewhere. However, ogre and verbeeg warbands continue to harass the settlements.
Dragonfyre champions can be found among different battlegroups, the dwarves, cavemen of Creb, centaurs, stone giants, always accounting for themselves with bravery and honor.
Brindinfarm suffers a surge of orcish raids after the fire giants fall back from Mount Cothos. Brindinford and Alsoor both are forced to reduce their presence on the battlefield as no less than three plots orchestrated by magic users are launched against the populace. In Alsoor, a rash of murder/robberies marked by the use of magic missiles goes on for weeks before the mage responsible is found and slain. In Brindinford, multiple accidents are caused by the sudden somnolence of individuals; the cause is eventually traced back to a malevolent sorcerer. Finally, a coven of witches manages to curse dozens if not scores of domestic animals with hyper aggression. Potentially related, two suspected elfmarked are executed in Almaaz, there is some disagreement on whether or not they enacted any magical crimes or were slain out of an abundance of caution. Three Onellan knights in separate companies are found strangled by yellow cords.
The housekarl Hengist is slain at the hands of the troll lord Erythnul, torn in half when the monster ambushes the Silver Swords with two scores of trolls in his retinue. His brother Horsa takes up the Runeblade in a rage, and drives the near invincible being back, the souls of a hundred slain trolls empowering him far beyond his usual ability. Thereafter, Horsa can be heard muttering darkly to the blade, his gaze full of smoldering rage. He leaves the Swords frequently now, returning covered in blood usually after hours, sometimes days. Lieutenant Ghree is left in charge during these absences, guiding the Swords as best she can. A company of Onellan knights that encounters the Silver Swords makes mention that the trollkin ought to be relieved of command and possibly his head, but does not push the issue when the Swords react poorly to the suggestion. They part ways without violence, but the Swords come upon their slaughtered corpses a week later.
(Player Response) Julian declines, from his perch far away on Masnurre’s doorstep, to attempt to meddle in Almaaz’s internal affairs. On hearing the news of somnolent magicks in Brindinford, as well as news that Melantha has returned and is once more active in the region, he does make sure that his old report to her is supplemented with more recent intelligence – gnome connections, the ring of Althalus, a hint that the Speaker slain all those years ago might have been but an aspect or avatar of the true being.
Meanwhile, Shael taps his network of agents to counter the threats – where claims are false, they shed light – when they are the actions of enemies, they stand fast and provide succor – but, to those magi who are merely caught up in a much larger maelstrum of confluence, they offer shelter.
Kryss taps his contacts for actionable intelligence on the Yellow Cord assassins plaguing the allies.
Together with proclaiming word of the enemy Warlord’s triple death, Julian writes privately to Horsa on hearing of his brother’s death, such condolences as he can offer from afar, and calls on his housecarl to attend him when Julian returns to Dragonfire, that they may mourn Hengist together.
Also with word of Imperagon’s death, Julian sends orders that the various mercenaries and adventurers in Dragonfire pay should stay in it, at least until the dust settles and it is seen how the ildjotun react, and should not be dismissed prematurely. The regular armies of Dragonfire are also to remain in readiness and vigilance against attack (and any further treachery and infiltration) is to be unrelaxed until the situation becomes far clearer than it currently is. The Anemoi and Myrmidons, however, shall be released from service after carrying these final rounds of tidings, unless any wish to stay in the land of their own free will, in fulfilment of Julian’s promises to the Four Winds.