Uzzo and his troops had arrived at the intended destination the previous evening, after the long march through the western outskirts of the Elgar they were now setting up shop southeast of Asprominke and its borderlands where it abuts the wretched forest. The terrain and logistics had proven more difficult to contend with than the encounters along the way, mostly due to the fact their march was well away from the forest's heart of darkness and the Black Lagoon, the further east one traveled towards its inner depths the sketchier things became, it was no coincidence that no settlements had proven to be of the permanent kind, only transient roots that were inevitably pulled up and scattered amongst the ruins of those that came before. There was plenty of time to rest from their travel, as the enemy units had taken up residence in the moderately impressive keep they'd constructed during their time at the border, thus far there'd been minimal movement beyond the occasional skirmish of the defensive lines at the border. The Southern Margrave wasted no time in personally contacting the Eastern Margrave and Lord Protector upon arriving, traveling to their encampment for the brief exchange of pleasantries, having worked with the latter previously during their time in Mhernettla, though it'd be the first time he'd came face to face with the Eastern Margrave. With the rigamarole of proper noble etiquette they could get down to brass tacks, it'd be nonsensical for their forces to operate independently insofar as mission statements, whatever difference in opinion on a personal level or how they viewed one another placed aside to complete their duty to the duchy they'd been sworn to protect. They looked over the map spread across the table, littered with various carved pieces of wood as placeholders, the map itself rather impressively detailed due to the Eastern Margrave's long years of contending with the region. Know thy enemy. Battlelines were drawn, and after a lengthy discourse and exchange of potential planning, they eventually came to an agreement concerning their course of actions.
He returned to the lines of his own encampment, going over the various steps in their plans with the commanding officers amongst his troops, who would in turn be in charge of ensuring they were carried out at lower levels amongst the rank and file soldiers. The Southern Margrave's troops would be serving in a support role for the most part while the Eastern Margrave and Lord Protector's combined units would be the vanguard in the operation. And thus, the soldiers with their various mission statements were pressed into action, with the Eastern Margrave's lines marching for the keep and settling into a partial encirclement of its western and northern positions along a curved line, while the Southern Margrave marched in from the south, leaving an opening between the two armies to the east of the keep for reasons they'd already discussed at length. The day was spent digging and cutting down trees for defensive line fortifications, mostly consisting of ditches, mounds, wooden palisade and sharpened wooden spikes, utilized to reduce or remove the ability for enemy units to move safely through their positions. An expanse of barren forest laid between the duchy's lines and the keep itself, which had been constructed using local materials and clearing out the area surrounding the fortification so infiltration with smaller groups would be more difficult as well as remove any defensive cover from trees by approaching units. It was, technically speaking, sound reasoning, but also one that would ultimately favour the Transdarianian forces. It seemed their unwelcomed guests, for the time being, had a preference to remain hunkered down in their keep during the daytime hours, far be it for them not to take advantage of that detail in full. The Southern Margrave moved to the eastern wing of his formations and collected the octideb cavalry, who were set to task along side himself in a trip back into the forest from whence they came to circle around to the eastern edge of the battlefield they'd left open from their encirclement, the terrain itself serving as a natural bottleneck that would serve to funnel movements on the ground as it disappeared into the forest beyond.
Uzzo made his way back to his lines sometime late in the day, the sun still lingering above the horizon, one last check given amongst the commanding officers to ensure the orders they'd received earlier would be followed to the tee. The time left until nightfall gave them the opportunity to relax, but, rarely was such a thing possible amongst some of the soldiers ranks, only a portion of the older veterans that had been face to face with death on the field of battle seemed to be the only ones really at home with the tension of waiting for the inevitable fight that was to come. It wasn't until the last ray of light from the sun disappeared over the horizon that a complete silence fell over the area, the keep seemingly to vibrate with activity from within, less seen than it was felt. Torches and fires lit across the lines cast an eerie glow across the barren lands that stretched out from around the keep itself, shadows dancing to and fro and playing tricks on the eyes of those already anxious about the upcoming battle. He stood atop an earthen rampart to overlook the field of battle, never one to shy away from the front lines, noble the fellow may be he'd risen from pauper to his current position by merit and accomplishment, not through inheritance and the accolades of his dead ancestors. He wasn't ignorant of the fact that his presence at the front of the lines, clearly viewed by his bannermen and others from the southern territories, was an assurance not necessarily of his ability, but rather of his willingness to put himself in danger alongside every soldier there.
Uzzo wore a padded gambeson crafted from thick, stacked layers of octideb silk with a reinforcement of stitched leather cladding crafted toughened hide. Attached to the shoulders were convex rectangular sode-style lames of overlapping wyvern scales, stitched and woven together with silk cordage, which cover the upper arms from the shoulder to just above the elbows. Kote-style sleeves constructed in a similar manner appeared from beneath the shield-like pauldrons and travel down to the back of the hands, which are carved from larger scales to mold and protect the back of the hand, knuckles and thumb. The scales themselves were of a green'ish-grey colouration, tinged by a blackish sheen as if exposed to flames to give them the appearance of charred and polished lacquer coating, which in reality is a thin diamond-like film crafted from his own body that gave the already thick, robust armoured scales of the Varstadi wyvern an even more formidable measure of defense. The half-cloak upon his shoulder was brushed back behind him, the aegean blue coloured garment of silk emblazoned with the Salksilek coat of arms, the same carried by his bannermen, consisting of a trio of plum coloured poppy blossoms. In his hands was strung a reflex bow crafted from the bone, sinew, horn and blood of Klathrymagdon, the storm-god of the Khalar's chariot-puller, an item of power infused with the fearsome essence of the living colossal storm that raged across the steppes. That is, until it was slain by the party he'd fought along side of, putting an end to its destructive wrath. But, that was a story of past victory, not the one he sought before him.
Time seemed to pass slowly, the stirrings within the keep before them growing bit by bit, as if it were a living, breathing entity, the silence now more palpable than ever. It was, however, broken by shouts from the Western Margrave's lines, which carried easily over the barren field bereft of trees aside from their gnarled roots and remnants of roughly hewn trunks. Bringing horses, aside from pack animals, had proven to be the right call, traditional cavalry would be worthless under these circumstances, aside from the difficulty they'd have traversing the forest's terrain in general. In the span of a few moments things had gone to complete and utter silence to the roaring assault of orders being shouted down the lines on all sides, the time had finally come to start. The heavy creak of wood and lashings could be heard beneath their voices, while new points of light erupted from behind the Western Margrave's lines, moments before the assault began. The siege weapons brought from Asprominke showcased their worth as trebuchets and mangonels began heavy a variety of projectiles, roughly carved stones and flaming pitch filled clay pots hurtling through the night sky on their arcing paths before impacting the keep with tumultuous rumblings that echoed through the region. There would be no infiltration or effort to seize the fortification from the enemy, a direct assault was pointless, this was a war where the only outcome was their complete and utter destruction. The unrelenting cacophony of wood and stone violently competing for dominance was soon joined by the growing din of fire as flames took hold at the structure, with each thudding blow of the assault diminishing the structure until it could no longer withstand it.
The keep cracked open along its side, the contents within spilling free like and over-filled sausage casing, the fel beasts gushing out of the gaping wound the same manner water would spill from an earthen vessel. The swarm of demonic beasts pulsed outward like a cresting wave, while the reinforced doors that previously served to keep them within were ripped ajar to allow them egress. The swarm of fiends were met with cold steel as release orders were shouted, arrows raining down like droplets of water in a violent thunderstorm as they filled the night sky. Demonic beasts riddled with arrows littered the ground, which were summarily trampled upon and climbed over, so injuries amongst their numbers soon turned to deaths as they were crushed under foot and claw in their frenzy. The unrelenting hailstorm of arrows were soon joined by adjusted fire from the trebuchets and mangonels, their munitions now fired in straight lines instead of arcs, which skittered and bounced across the grounds of the battlefield, carving pathways through the bodies of fiends while pools of flaming pitch dotted the landscape, spread further as the tightly packed lines of demonic creatures had little choice but to move through them in the growing chaos. Time seemed to slow as the scene turned to complete carnage in front of the soldiers eyes, though despite the unforgiving onslaught it was clear it wouldn't be enough to finish this battle, things had only really begun, as evident by the winged beasts that began to claw and hoist themselves into the night sky amongst their numbers.
Uzzo lifted the reflex bow in his hands skyward as its string was drawn back to his ear, a cylindrical tube of polished mithril nocked instead of an arrow, two groves in its structure running almost the entire way towards its tip. Contained within were small enchanted bolts stacked on top of one another, while its exterior was etched and emblazoned with magical circuitry to channel arcane energies inward. Half a dozen mana batteries, crystalized arcane energies the size of marbles, studded the back of the Southern Margrave's hand, embedded into his 'flesh' as they were set to task infusing their stored contents into the bow, cylinder and the munitions contained within, each marble cracking and popping before dissolving away as they were emptied in turn. Thin wisps of smoke drifted off the limbs of the bow as it strained under the magical load being charged into it, all of which was released at once as the string was released from the hook of his thumb, sliding along through the groves of the cylinder to propel the stacked bolts into the air. The bolts exited the tip of the cylinder at an alarming velocity as six pin points of bright red light as they soared skyward, spreading slightly apart during their travel before shattering like orbs of glass, the fragments of which lit up the night sky in a dazzling display. The glittering crimson fragments seemed to hang in the sky, suspended momentarily before they abruptly gained a second wind, accelerating as they spread out further and fell across the battlefield like a curtain of angry fireflies. The searing red points of light scatter down across the numbers of winged fiends attempting to force themselves skyward, piercing through their wings and bodies as if the beasts were crafted from delicate rice-paper, decimating their numbers and heavily injuring scores others, both airborne and those beneath, not counting the masses beneath that found themselves having their formally skybound brothers crashing down atop them. The string of the bow snapped with a sharp twang, the last of its crackling energies dispersed and vanished, the instrument carefully bent with his hands and placed around his waist like a decorative belt for safe keeping, free his grasp so it can summarily be filled with the spear one of his retainers offered to him.
Of those that made it skyward, they were soon set upon by the mixture of aerial units the Southern Margrave had brought, the swift southern wyvern riders perfectly suited for skirmishing as they harried and harassed the winged beasts, swooping in with javelin and crossbow bolts alike. The much larger northern wyverns, Varstadi breeds favoured by their lord, were slower and less agile, but what they lacked in those regards they made up for with their hulking frames, powerful hind claws, destructive bites and more dangerously, the extremely potent venom contained within those barbed tails of their, the sting of which froze the fiendish creatures in the air, succumbing to their throes of death between flags of their wings. Their natural prey were dire yaks and the half-giants of Varstad afterall, and their venoms were powerful enough to kill those in their tracks, and was now proving just as effective against the fiendish creatures. Giant Tannis owl riders kept a wider berth and higher altitude, utilizing their war bows, cranequin and windlass crossbows to snipe unsuspecting creatures whose attentions were upon the terrible wyverns facing them. Winged fiends plummeted down onto the battlefield along with the occasional unfortunate ally, though even at a glance it was clear the aerial battle was turning against the demonic creatures as the fighting progressed, put at a disadvantage by both quality of units and strategy being employed against them. Without a proper commander leading the large numbers of beasts, they acted upon instinct, and such a thing was easy to discern with a keen enough mind and eye.
Unbeknownst to the Southern Margrave, the commander of these fel beasts was busy with the Eastern Margrave's forces, though visual contact had long been lost as the fray unfolded. The beasts rushed the defensive lines that been dug in and constructed, the first of their numbers leading the charge that reached it finding little comfort as they rushed into the heavy javelins and continued volley of arrow fire that rained down upon them. Those fortunate enough to reach the front line itself found even less comfort from the tip of a spear and the lines of spiked fortifications that skewered their numbers as they clamoured over one another in an effort to find flesh beneath their swiping claws and gnashing fangs. The ranks of spearmen and pikemen fought viciously, thrusting and impaling any beast foolish enough in its frenzy to try to break through their lines, blindly striking down their foes only to find little shortage in the numbers of those that required thorough perforation with their assistance. There were times where the line almost wavered and was nearly breached, but the positions were swiftly reinforced with a vigor in the hearts of soldiers that understood all too well that the line had to be held at all costs, there would be no reprieve from their intentions, only death awaited them. Their advance was halted, and the Southern Margrave could only makes assumptions as to the fate of how the western and northern lines were managing the swarm of fiends, communication in the heat of battle from one side of the battle to the other was practically impossible, so he could only continue to function on the prospect they were holding their lines just as he was holding his. A shift in the flow of the horde, despite the violent and chaotic scenery did not go unnoticed by the margrave, and he soon issued orders to be passed down along the lines to other commanding officers under him.
The flow of the battle in front of them changed, perhaps instinctively the horde realized the difficultly in progressive forward as they had, and now sought a path of less resistance, as was a natural course of action by such beastial creatures. A portion of them began to flow eastward towards the opening in the encirclement, though whatever it was that they were seeking in this process was about to be turned on its head. The Southern Margrave had spent the daylight hours summoning his kin, oozes and slimes of various sorts, which had been hidden in the forested area beyond, it was a tactic neither the Eastern Margrave or Lord Protector were fond of, but they were too pragmatic to turn up their nose at the suggested plan he'd put forth during their discussions. The portion of the swarm that attempted to head eastward through the gap in the encirclement soon found themselves literally rushing into the awaiting monsters, instead of the flanking maneuver they sought to establish, their numbers were slowed and bogged down in the entanglement of psuedopods and tendrils that grasped and clutched at them from beneath their clawed feet. The terrain itself made it difficult to circle around the far eastern line, a prospect that was made all the more difficult as the reserves of octideb cavalry and Mazewood rangers now descended upon their harried prey, taking advantage of the easy targets with arrow, javelin and lance alike since they were left unharassed by the monsters making up a portion of the terrain.
How long an amount of time passed, even the margrave was unaware, despite not being at the mercy of dwindling adrenaline and endurance, the same could not be said of his men. Fortunately, they had held their lines throughout the battle, and the horde's numbers has decreased substantially, which allowed them to reform their lines, regroup and launch their focused assaults on the remaining numbers that threatened their end of the battlefield. Into the night time hours the battle crept, and without mercy the soldiers gathered in the outskirts of the wretched forest skewered, speared and riddled their enemies with volleys of arrow fire until the chaotic tide had turned to a diminished shadow of their fearsome numbers. More orders were shouted out, and the right most wing of the formations began to move forward and turn inward, pushing and bullying the remaining horde back on itself and trapping it between the encirclement in full. The Southern Margrave's expectations were not betrayed, as the violent fray thinned and the chaotic scene gained clarity, the Eastern Margrave's lines had held, now spurred on further by an unknown factor. It wouldn't be until after the battle had been concluded and he'd greeted the Eastern Margrave and Lord Protector to congratulate their efforts, he would find out the defining turn of the battle came after the commander of the fiendish creatures had been slain, felled by the spear to the back by a lowly foot soldier no less while he was engaged in a fight with a pair of knights from the Order of the Watchful Eye. There was no honour to be found in war, only those that survived were privy to such notions, he'd be rewarded and commended suitably for his bravery and commitment, as was the luxury of the living.
The aftermath on the battlefield was a gruesome affair, as they always were, but the spare numbers of allies counted amongst the dead in comparison to the enemy forces was clear to see. In the far distant skies to the east, from Drache an eerie orange haze and glow would linger in the night sky til morning, the keep and the bodies of fel creatures within and on the battlefield serving as suitable kindling to ensure the blaze burned into the morning hours. It was a sign of victory and death alike, as not all who left to defend the duchy would return alive to their families in the following days. However, the demonic threat to Transdariania's eastern border was destroyed, and those left alive would have plenty of celebrate, drink and mourn for those that weren't. Their efforts here weren't fully completed either, as at first light a reserve of scouts would be sent to Mazewood to investigate the settlements current condition. Their mission had been two-fold, aside from the eradication of hostile entities in the borderlands and western outskirts, there was also the matter of potentially having to retake Mazewood by any remaining enemy forces that my be occupying it. Either way, the settlement was to be resecured, long had the denizens of Mazewood served amongst the ranks of the Border Watch for Arangoth, but now the kingdom was fractured, it was time to showcase to the elves of Mazewood just who was willing to come to their aid in times of dire need. This wasn't a fact that would be soon forgotten.
Outside the city of Drache lies a number of cities, towns and provinces of varying size and populace. Most of the people living outside Drache are natives who speak Arangothian and observe the native customs and rituals. Click here for a list Arangoth's locales, and here to view a map.
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