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Alternate Alphatian timeline AC 1013

by Geoff Gander

Spring, AC 1013: Ships from Notrion, bearing soldiers to aid the beleaguered defenders of Rock Harbour, come across a grisly spectacle. It seems they are too late; the town is still smoking from the fires set within its walls, and the smell of rotting flesh is prevalent. A squad of soldiers enters the town, and within moments comes running out, saying that the populace has been butchered. Shocked, the Notrion commander enters the ruined town himself, and discovers it to be full of rotting corpses, many wearing the blood-spattered uniforms of Alphatian soldiers. Although many Jennite corpses are in evidence, most of the dead appear to be civilians. A large number of them have been nailed to the walls of various buildings, and, judging by their expressions, while they were still alive. Horrified, he orders his men to return to their ships, and head home.

The Vanguard Council of Alerin holds an emergency meeting in the cellars beneath what was once the queen's palace. Judging by reports from what remains of their intelligence network, almost all of the nation has fallen to the combined forces of Randel, Theranderol, and Arogansa. Only the capital city of Archport holds out, and even then only by the smallest of margins. The city has been under siege for two weeks, and the battle mages of the three kingdoms have unleashed a deadly torrent of lethal magic on the city's defences. Formidable as they are, the walls have begun to melt in certain places, and the citizens have suffered high casualty rates.

The Frislander port town of Azafez is attacked by a large force of Ostlander longships. Although the defenders fight bravely, they are ultimately overwhelmed when the more powerful spellcasters among them are felled by cruelly-thrown axes and spears. The jarl leading this group of Ostlanders, named Hodar, renames the town Lodgaard. Within days he learns of the existence of Østfjord, and of its ruler, Audun. He sends a representative to him, both to declare his presence in the area, and to reassure him that he has no designs on the other town, being concerned mainly with expanding in the immediate area.

In the foothills of the western Kerothar Mountains, a large force of dwarves returning home to Denwarf-Hurgon come across a ragged group of goblins, apparently refugees from Trollhattan who somehow escaped the notice of the besiegers. The dwarves fall upon them immediately, and exterminate every last one of them.

In Shiell, Frisland, while local nobles continue their year-old argument about who should take the throne, a general alarm is sounded. Within moments, an exhausted guard runs into the throne room, telling all the nobles present that a great force of monsters has crossed the Rainbow River into Frisland, and already they are laying waste to the countryside. Some nobles immediately teleport to their retreats, not wishing to risk their lives in putting down the menace, while others go to Shiell's immense battlements to see the situation for themselves. The entire southern horizon seems to be engulfed in a black tide of writhing forms and shambling monsters, accompanied by large numbers of humanoids and human soldiers.

Elsewhere in Frisland, Qeodharian forces based in Widzif have gained control of all lands south of the port town to the border with Østfjord and the northernmost spur of the Kerothar Mountains, and east to the Yaniv River, near Ydroyas. Forces stationed near Ydroyas are heavily-armed, and preparations are made to build a small fortress on a hill overlooking the town across the river.

In Shiye-Lawr, a similar force crosses the Elfripple River from Blackheart, but before it even penetrates more than three miles into the forest, it suffers ferocious attacks from all sides. Within minutes, hundreds of invaders lie dead on the forest floor. Realising that they must flee, the Blackhearters try to retreat in an orderly fashion, but it soon becomes a rout as lightning bolts incinerate large numbers of humanoids, and treants seem to just appear out of the trees and crush all they see. By the time the Elfripple River comes into view once more, only one-fifth of the original invasion force remains.

On the Isle of Dawn, the Thothians' fortunes have finally changed; for once, they are on the defensive. Several Thothian encampments in southern Hillvale come under attack in the early months of this year, as Thyatian, Dunadaler, and Hillvalian troops press their advantage and liberate more territory. By the end of Thaumont, almost all of southern Hillvale is free once more, and defensive positions are established along the former frontier with Ekto. Further advances are blocked by the Thothians, who maintain their grip on Ekto and Trikelios, and the surrounding region.

Advances in Aeria continue; the eastern third of the island is now firmly under Thothian control, though these lands were not won without a fight. Local resistance, though largely ineffectual, has been persistent, which has slowed the Thothian advance considerably. Troops that could be used in the planned assault on Featherfall are instead needed to ferret out guerrillas, as well as maintain the peace among the restive population. This has bought the defenders extra time to prepare themselves. In western Aeria, a force of 300 soldiers from Aegos draws ashore to aid its ally, and 200 warriors from Gaity land south of Featherfall to lend their aid.

Summer, AC 1013: The town of Witival, in central Frisland, awakes to find itself surrounded one summer's morning by a force of over two thousand soldiers. Their leader comes forth, and requests that the town submit to the authority of Caradon Maras, leader of the Sons of Argonath, so that they might be protected against the growing anarchy in the region. Realising that, although she could resist the invaders, it would impose undue hardships on the people, the mayor of Witival agrees to submit to the Sons, but on the condition that all soldiers enter the town unarmed. The army's leader ponders this, but reluctantly agrees.

With a tremendous crash, the northern walls of Archport collapse under the sustained assault of the war-wizards from Randel, Arogansa, and Thernaderol. As soldiers pour into the city, citizens flee to the safety of their homes, while soldiers loyal to the Vanguard Council put up as best a fight as they can. Outnumbering the defenders by more than six to one, the allied invaders manage to take the city with a minimum of casualties. Those members of the Vanguard Council who are captured are put on trial for treason against the Alphatian empire, regicide, and for inflicting undue harm on the people of Eadrin. They are quickly found guilty and executed.

Bettellyn troops under the command of the rogue generals press deeper into Randelian territory. Dmireton is overrun within three days, as are several surrounding villages. Before they reach the town of Telsadun, they begin to come against concerted resistance on the part of the local forces. Soon, it becomes apparent that not all of Randel's forces were dispatched to Eadrin, as preliminary sources seemed to indicate.

In Bettellyn's capital city of Citadel, Queen Llynara issues a formal apology to the King Verothrics of Randel, as she has determined that one of her top generals has gone rogue. She tells her regal counterpart that efforts will be made to bring the errant general to heel, and that he will be disciplined. Verothrics thanks Llynara for the news, but again reiterates his desire to see all Bettellynian troops, loyalist or rebel, removed from Randelian soil as soon as possible. He tells her that, once Randel's business in Eadrin is concluded, it may have to turn its attention northward if the situation is not resolved to its satisfaction.

In Esterhold, a great battle takes place roughly halfway along the southern coast, between Port Marlin and the ruins of Rock Harbour. Scouts from Port Marlin, who witnessed the aftermath of Rock Harbour's siege, hurried back home to warn the port's ruler of the danger. In the intervening period, a network of scouts has ridden the hinterlands between the town and the westward-riding Jennites, and had spotted them, roughly 500 miles eastwards. Now, the two forces clash. Although the Jennites outnumber the Port Marliners by four-to-one, the Alphatians have a considerable number of wizards on their side, and these are employed to great effect! While the Alphatian footsoldiers use pikes to keep the mounted Jennites at bay, the wizards rain down fireballs, lightning bolts, and cloudkill spells on the invaders. Within two hours, over 2,000 Jennites lay dead, but more keep on coming. By the end of the day, the Alphatians are forced to carry out a fighting withdrawal, slowly giving ground, but exacting a deadly toll for every foot of ground gained by the Jennites. Soon, the Jennites give up their pursuit, and the surviving Alphatians return to Port Marlin. Although they lost one-third of their forces, or roughly 1,000 men, the strategic use of their wizards, and disciplined tactics, resulted in the deaths of almost 4,500 Jennites.

In Skyfyr, Esterhold, news of the steadily nearing Jennite offensive filters down to the street level. In northwestern Esterhold, Blackrock scouts have encountered roving Jennite patrols no more than 200 miles away from the kingdom's southern borders. Ticket prices on passenger vessels heading for the Alphatian mainland double almost overnight as anxiety spreads. Mercifully, the reports of what happened to those Alphatians who could not escape Faraway, Anchorage, and Rock Harbour is kept secret by the authorities.

Elsewhere in Esterhold, one mounted horde of Jennites reaches the western coast of the peninsula. As they see the waters of the Sea of Esterhold wash upon the rocky beaches, they let out a ragged cheer. They have successfully pushed westwards through Esterhold. They have also cut off the two remaining Alphatian strongholds from each other, save by ship or magical means. Splitting into two groups, they ride north and south, where they know the enemy lies.

In Shiye-Lawr, Acroshiye, king of the Alphatian elves, gives a moving speech to his subjects in front of his palace. Describing the audacity of the forces from Blackheart in attacking the elves, and their evil intent, he encourages his soldiers to be brave, to be valiant, and above all to work ceaselessly to purge the region of the evil influences of that foul nation to the north once and for all. He exhorts all present to use whatever means are at their disposal to achieve this, saying that the time is at hand where the deaths of all elves who have suffered at the hands of Blackheart may be avenged. His speech is interrupted by the sudden appearance of an exceedingly ancient elf. Named Beryshiye, she proclaims weakly that she is the last living elf who remembers the lost kingdom of Ilmaryll. In a rasping voice, she describes how, as a child over 1,200 years ago, she saw the maddened flight from Dor-Addon, and the subsequent corruption of the forests she once called her home. With tears in her eyes, she asks those present to remember the lost souls of Ilmaryll, so that when she dies, she may at least do so with the knowledge that her kingdom has not been left unavenged. Exhausted by her efforts, she collapses, but her words have not gone unheard.

The siege of Shiell, in Frisland, begins to go badly for the defenders. Though those wizards who remain lay waste to large numbers of monstrous invaders, but more continually come north from the Ugly Wood. Messages are sent to Skyreach, urgently requesting aid to break the siege, but the response is not encouraging. Authorities in Floating Ar are facing the same problems as in Ambur - many peasants are leaving for Foresthome and other, more southerly, kingdoms in search of a better life. As a result, not as much work is being done in the kingdom, and Floating Ar is suffering. This, the fact that the front in Esterhold appears to be collapsing, continued Thyatian and Heldannic incursions in Norwold and the Isle of Dawn, and the continuing conflicts between Randel and Bettellyn, make it impossible for Skyreach to send aid at this time.

The Gaitian expeditionary force encounters the advancing Thothians approximately 40 miles south of Featherfall, and, seeing the size of the invading force (roughly 1,000 men and 1,500 undead), quickly orders a retreat.

Fall, AC 1013: Ten thousand elvish warriors cross the Elfripple River northwards, into Blackheart. Within hours, the advancing host comes across the town of Jondor, which, after putting up some resistance, is overwhelmed by magical superiority and razed. None of the monstrous inhabitants are spared, and the handful of humans living there are driven north. Planting his banner in the centre of the smoking ruins, king Arcoshiye proclaims the land to be cleansed of Blackheart's evil.

The Frislander town of Gowola is conquered by Qeodharian marines, after a brief skirmish outside the town walls. Although Gowola's defences are quite adequate for repelling bandits, they are not sufficient to hold off the seasoned troops invading it. Once order is restored, and a new governor is appointed to quell domestic unrest, several hundred soldiers fan out into the surrounding countryside, especially eastwards - towards the Fris River.

The small fishing village of Bridock, which lies 100 miles north of Port Marlin, on the western coast of Esterhold, is surrounded by a southward-moving Jennite host before dawn. The terrified villagers are forced from their homes, and tied up. They are then forced to watch as their village is burned to the ground. Once the last ashes dim during the late afternoon, one quarter of them are slaughtered. The Jennites then resume their southward march, with the surviving Alphatians, still tied, forced to run to keep pace with the cantering horses. All the while, the Jennites jeer at them in crude Alphatian, and throw garbage at them.

In Bettellyn, rogue units come into conflict with those loyal to the queen, and great conflicts erupt near Vonboby and Sabetta. The battle is fierce, and it soon becomes apparent that the rogue soldiers are not without magical resources of their own. Though the loyal forces manage to defeat the rebels, many casualties are suffered on both sides. The occupied region of Dmireton and environs, however, remains firmly under the control of other rogue elements.

With a shout of frenzied glee, the invaders from Blackheart manage to overwhelm the outer defences of Shiell, and storm to outer ring of the city. Fortunately, everyone within that part of the city has evacuated to the inner city. After a few days of looting and burning, the horde sets its sights on the inner gate.

In the remnants of the kingdom of Vertiloch, some villages bordering the kingdom of Haven petition Queen Kryndylya to annex their lands, so that they might be protected from the dangers stalking the land. Within weeks, Havenite soldiers cross the border into western Vertiloch, and set up camps in the region. Villages in southeastern Vertiloch soon find themselves under the protection of Theranderol, even though they did not request it. The border between the two kingdoms is now the Greenlake River.

After months of repeated petitions, King Sildreth II of Greenspur allows his army to close the border with Arogansa, in much the same manner as Haven has already done with the rest of Alphatia. Domestic sentiment is turning away from continued ties with the more traditionalist kingdoms of the empire, as more liberal-minded refugees from the Isle of Dawn share their views with the locals.

The relative quiet along the front line in southern Hillvale is broken by a new Thothian offensive. Thousands of undead storm the positions of the allies, in some places overwhelming the defenders. Despite their best efforts, the allies cannot hold off enemies who feel no pain nor show any fear, and some begin to lose heart. Thyatian clerics present among the troops manage to turn some of the weaker undead, but the sheer number of them forces a fighting withdrawal to more defensible positions further north.

On the island nation of Aeria, the city of Featherfall comes under siege as the advancing Thothians quickly encircle it. News of Gaity's retreat from Aeria has reached Dormin, who, disheartened, orders his soldiers to defend the city with all their might. He also sends an urgent message to the Aegosian soldiers advancing from the west, to arrive with all due speed.

Winter, AC 1013: At Sulmner's Vale, Esterhold, a great battle takes place between the army of the Alphatian kingdom of Blackrock and the northward-moving Jennite horde. Over the course of four days, magical volleys rain death down upon the Jennites, while hundreds of Alphatian soldiers fall to Jennite arrows and spears. Despite their best efforts, though, the Alphatians cannot hold the line, and soon the sheer numbers of the Jennites push them northwards. Using a final deadly barrage of fireballs and lightning bolts, as well as the aid of two skyships, the Alphatians manage to pull back safely. The Jennites, seeing the power of the defenders, decide not to pursue. They hold their position, roughly 60 miles southeast of Skyfyr.

The people of Port Marlin brace for the event they know has been coming. Advance scouts return one morning, breathlessly reporting that large Jennite hosts have been spotted to the east, and to the north. Preparations are made for the evacuation of all non-military inhabitants of the town, and the outer walls soon bristle with armed guards. Within a day, the Jennites come within sight of the town, and, letting out a cry of joy, mount a massive charge. Almost immediately, magical defences carefully laid out hours before are triggered, slaying the attackers by the hundreds as great explosions boom around Port Marlin. Even so, the Jennites soon reach the walls, and, under a constant barrage of boiling oil, arrows, and magic spells, proceed to use battering rams to try to break the main gates down. Elsewhere, Jennites equipped with crude ladders try to scale the walls, only to be pushed back by the Alphatians. After one whole day of fighting, Port Marlin's defences still hold, allowing some of the civilians to sail for Notrion.

At the ruins of Idongor, Eadrin, representatives from Randel, Theranderol, and Arogansa meet to discuss the fate of this ruined kingdom. Although the last Alerinian forces have long since been destroyed, efforts to locate a legitimate heir to the throne of Eadrin have been unsuccessful. As a result, all three kingdoms have come to the conclusion that Eadrin should be partitioned between them, so that order may be retained, and each kingdom may come out of this a winner. The representative from Randel says that, since her nation bore the brunt of the resistance, and since Randel liberated over half of Eadrin, the share that it currently occupies should go to it. Theranderol agrees, but says that, as an early combatant, it should be granted at least one-third of Eadrin, plus a corridor to the sea and eastern Archport. Arogansa refuses to relinquish any part of Archport or the surrounding area, and it has claims of its own as far as the Randel zone of occupation. The three representatives agree to meet once more in the spring.

In embattled Shiell, Frisland, a surge of hope strikes the hearts of all living within the city when guards atop the tallest towers report the advance of a large host to the north. In soon becomes apparent that this is not a reserve force of Frislanders; the banner of Argonath flies at the head of this force. With a loud cheer, the Argonathians charge those humanoids they find outside the city, destroying them utterly. They rapidly gain entrance to the outer ring of the city, and are soon turning the tables against the Blackhearters, who did not expect anyone to be attacking them. Emboldened by the turn of events, many of Shiell's defenders leave the inner city to attack the monstrous invaders as well. Soon, the Blackhearters realise that they are trapped between two forces. They were already running low on supplies - the siege lasting far longer than they expected - and many of the humanoid warriors surrender. The situation soon becomes a rout, in which the fearful army of Blackheart breaks under the pressure. Only a handful escape. During the stunned silence afterwards, Caradon Maras, leader of the Sons of Argonath and general of its army, demands to see the ruler of the city. Soon, he meets with those public officials who remained during the siege, and commends them for their bravery. He also asks that, in recognition for his aid, they recognise him as ruler over the city. Seeing that Caradon and his forces are the sole saviours of Shiell, and that the public is already praising Caradon, most of the wizards and gentry present agree. Caradon then walks into the streets, boldly proclaiming that "the city of Argondor has been reclaimed by the Sons of Argonath. The old kingdom is restored, and Argonath shall stand evermore!" The streets erupt in the cheers of Caradon's men, and of many commoners.

In southern Blackheart, fierce resistance slows the elvish advance, but every day several miles are gained. Already, many towns and villages have fallen to the army of the Shiye, and zealous scouts advance deep behind enemy lines to discover the defenders' weaknesses, as well as the location of certain sacred places lost to the elves after the founding of Blackheart. Some go as far as the Rainbow River, and report after returning to their commanders that the northern host of Blackheart's forces has apparently been defeated in Frisland. Taking heart at this, the elves press northwards with more vigour.

The fighting retreat in southern Hillvale continues, as the pursuing undead forces of Thothia drive their living enemies before them. While the defenders may be quicker, and sentient, the undead require no rest or food, and this places them at a tremendous advantage. The fact that the animated remains of allied soldiers, who fell during the first counterattack, are also spotted among the invading horde reduces morale even further.

As the Thothians tighten their grip on the region surrounding Featherfall, the city's air mages lend their efforts to its defence, casting offensive spells at enemy soldiers, and creating phantasms to deceive their enemies. During one of these fierce battles, the Aegosian soldiers arrive from the west, cutting into Thothian lines where no attack was expected. Despite their efforts, however, the Aegosians are poorly trained, and soon they are forced to retreat due to the greater prowess of the Thothians.