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World in Flames: Madness in Wendarby Bruce Heard
AC 1017, 1st Quarter: The Wendarian city of Woodgate goes mad. It succumbs to a blind rage in the months following the slaughter of its elven keepers. At first, horrendous screeches echo throughout the city, followed with doors brutally swinging open and slamming shut. Windows and stones erratically burst out, projecting vicious shards. Worse, one night the walls and the floors absorb the vast majority of the occupying goblinoids. At first their bodies are partially stuck in the whispering, giggling, and gibbering walls as if the goblins had materialised inside mud. Still alive, the hapless humanoids shriek and howl horribly from the pain and utter fear while their bodies slowly disappear into the angry, magical stones. For the weaker beings, their bodies take a few hours before sinking in. For the greater humanoids, it takes long days of sickening agony and horror. When all is said and done, only a handful of humanoids who were able to jump off the city walls survived to tell what they saw. Soon it becomes clear that the Thunderous Horde has lost more than ten thousand of its kin. In the days following the tragic event, large, black veins appear on the buildings' walls, and the city begins twisting itself into a sinister shadow of its former self. The silhouettes of victims can be seen running across the surface of the walls. They groan and scream in pain, calling out for help in their futile quests to escape the stones of madness.
The insanity befalling Woodgate has another sweeping effect. Suddenly, not one of the war chiefs wants to assault the remaining Wendar cities. The northern invasion comes to a complete halt as the goblins realise that the other Wendarian cities may react the same way. Fear paralyses the leaders and they suddenly adopt a defensive stance. The news reach Ugrah who is furious at what he thinks is a Wendarian trick and at the superstition of his own kin. He gives orders to the southern horde's war chiefs to finish off Darokin while he travels north to take charge of the stalled northern invasion. No more than a day later, Shadow Elf spies hiding among the southern horde get the news and quickly return to Rafielton.
Darokin City remains besieged as the rest of the southern horde spreads outs into the countryside. Most of the townsfolk and their militias have fled south into the mountains. Ugrah's goblins take one town after another, almost without a fight. Before the end of winter, humanoids occupy Darokinian lands east of the Streel River and south of Canolbarth. Scouts begin crossing the mighty river to gauge the defences of Akorros. Another war party halts not far from the walls of Selenica and sets up a camp. Humanoids and the dwarves guarding Selenica begin observing each other uneasily. But Ugrah had ordered them to stay clear of Selenica, so no attack comes forth.
In Thyatis things are very different. By the time the bulk of Thyatis' forces reaches the Golden Horde, Kerendas is already under siege and Foreston has fallen. Moglai Khan has had enough time to position his forces to meet the oncoming Thyatians. Alphatian refugees fleeing from Karameikos bolster his forces. A bitter fight begins but the Thyatians are unable to break the siege. The highly mobile Ethengarian horsemen are masters at their ancestral war technique, rushing on toward the enemy lines and quickly retreating while showering them with arrows. Woe be the Thyatian line breaking before the Khan's horsemen, for they immediately exploit the breach and massacre all fleeing troops. Meanwhile outside Kerendas, Ethengarian and Alphatian spellcasters summon earth elementals to sap the city walls. Thyatian priests inside the city respond with their own magic, either stalling the elementals or breaking the Ethengarian assaults. They are hard-pressed however, and the Khan's army is slowly gaining the upper hand. Messages are sent from the crumbling city to the emperor.
AC 1017, 2nd Quarter: Vestland and Heldannic surface ships raid the isles of Ostland. Land defences are good enough however and none of the attacking forces can disembark for long. The allied warships begin a blockade of Ostland until reinforcements arrive.
Meanwhile near Selenica, Shadow Elves mount two attacks during the same night, one raid against the goblin's camp and the other inside Selenica. The elves had engineered a secret opening through the walls precisely for this eventuality. They quickly retreat from the sites of both raids, after leaving behind gallons of fake blood and piles of freshly killed dwarves and goblinoids whom they had captured the year before. Goblin arrows seem to have killed the "fallen" dwarves, while the fallen humanoids show the crushing wounds of warhammers and the gashes from dwarven battleaxes. In their excitement, neither side sees through the Shadow Elves' cruel ruse. By daybreak, rage prevails on both sides. Accusations of treachery and calls for revenge are on everyone's lips. Later that morning the two armies collide just west of Selenica. It is a horrid scene of savage butchery. Hiding in the forest, the Shadow Elves quietly observe the result of their deed. When one side seems to gain the upper-hand, they shower it with arrows and quickly withdraw back into Canolbarth. By the end of the day, both sides have nearly annihilated each other. The goblins fall back further west, calling for reinforcements, while the dwarves return to Selenica. Only then does it dawn upon the dwarves that their "fallen" comrades were warriors missing since they took Selenica from the Shadow Elves. They know now who was behind it all, and their hatred for the Shadow Elves grows even greater.
Ugrah and his proud Othwa guard continued their journey to Wendar when the news reach him of the disaster in Selenica. He sets up camp near the northern edge of the Broken Lands to discuss the ramifications of the "dwarven betrayal" and the changes in his plans with his war chiefs. Shadow Elf adventurers had been trailing Ugrah for just such an opportunity. They infiltrate the camp at night and capture the mighty Voice of Kro-ee. Narrowly escaping the guard, the Shadow Elves take Ugra with them. Later on at dawn, they stand on top of a cliff overlooking the Othwa camp. They call their attention, unceremoniously execute the hapless Ugrah before the horrified eyes of his Othwa kin, and quickly leave taking his body along to ensure no one will ever revive him. News of Ugrah's death spread like wildfire among the humanoids. Within days, war chiefs start bickering about who would replace the mighty Voice of Kro-ee. All further humanoid attacks suddenly halt in Darokin. In Wendar, the situation grows even worse and much of the northern horde retreats westward, abandoning the besieged cities. At the news, four fifths of Wendar's army and its Glantrian allies promptly wheel around and turn on the Denagoth invaders. The Heldannic army then marches down the Mengul mountains and slams into Denagoth's rear. A quick succession of large-scale battles shakes the Denagoth invasion forces who begin a slow retreat from Wendar.
Meanwhile in Thyatis, the war rages on. Kerendas threatens to fall at any time. By sundown, a wizard from the Imperial Collegium reports to Emperor Eusebius that the Great Arch stands ready. The Emperor nods and simply says, "Turn them loose." Later that night, Thyatian wizards stand in a circle around the large stone arch and read the runes carved on its surface. An image appears underneath. Becoming more precise, it shows a large camp with the sun rising behind it, sending rays of sunlight back out, through the arch's opening. Before the camp, stands a lone Heldannic commander staring back through the portal. He turns around and calls forth the warriors in the camp. At first hundreds and soon, thousands of horsemen gather before him. He motions them on and the warriors begin moving through the Thyatian arch. Just then, Eusebius sends messengers throughout the empire to announce the arrival of Thyatis' new allies. The announcement says that "the Jennites have accepted to fight for the Empire. Treat them well."
AC 1017, 3rd Quarter: Sensing the shifting winds, Ostland raiders decide to leave Vestland while the going is still good. They embark plunder and warriors alike, and set sail to Zeaburg. The Heldannic and Vestland ships blockading the isles intercept the Ostland drakkars. Overloaded, the longships are slow to manoeuvre and fail to manoeuvre around the blockading fleet. Soon, many attempt to turn around, fleeing the deadly siege weapons aboard the blockading ships, only to discover a large Thyatian fleet closing in. It is a disaster for Ostland. Most of its fleet has sunken along with its treasures and warriors. Only a few survive after throwing overboard their loads of plunder and the bodies of fallen heroes.
Several warbirds appear in the skies of Vestland. Getting a not-so-subtle hint of things to come and news of Ostland's woes, Soderfjord jarls abandon Norrvik in great haste and make a bee line to the south. A few days later, the King of Vestland lands in Norrvik and proclaims his beloved nation free of its invaders.
Meanwhile in Thyatis, Moglai Khan finally gets through Kerendas' defences. Ethengarians pour into the smouldering breaches. They quickly sack the city and raise the Great Khan's banner over its highest tower. His triumph is short lived, however. Reports of the dwarven blunder at Selenica, the goblins' full-scale retreat in Wendar, and the turn of events in the northern reaches come to Moglai Khan's attention. Worse, scouts report a very large force of wild horsemen approaching. The feeling that his entire plan is rapidly falling apart proves too much. He orders his armies to abandon Kerendas and march toward Biazzan. By daybreak the next day, his massive force skilfully manoeuvres past the Thyatian lines. But a sudden and savage charge changes the order of the day. Well over ten thousand wailing Jennites slam into Moglai Khan's flank. The Ethengarian forces menace to fall apart under the brutality and boldness of the attack. What started out as a skilful manoeuvre now threatens to become a panic route. But Moglai has another card in his sleeve. "Summon the Skyriders!" Soon afterward, hundreds of Ethengarians riding pegasi rise from behind nearby hills and come swooping down on the Jennites, showering them with arrows. The charge of the Skothar Brigade ends abruptly, giving just enough time for the Golden Horde to retreat from the battlefield.
Finally, up in Darokin, the allies resume their fight against the Ugrah's southern horde. The bickering war chiefs have no option but to retreat before the counterattacking forces. Thyatians and halflings from the Shires, now bolstered with a fresh army from Karameikos, pour into southern Darokin. The capital's garrison risks a courageous sortie in the rear of the retreating goblins, supported with Shadow Elves from Canolbarth. By the end of the week, most of the disorganised humanoids are surrounded, falling victim of a massive carnage. The remainder abandons Corunglain and flees toward Glantri.
AC 1017, 4th Quarter: A lone cohort of Thyatians approaches Selenica. A Darokinian commander rides to the gates and hails the dwarves. A dour warrior walks out to inquire about his visit. The commander stares down at the dwarf and says, "Your presence here has exceeded the hospitality of your hosts." The dwarf responds, "Eh? You really plan on taking the city with your pitiful band?" Right on clue, several thousand Shadow Elves quietly walk out of the woods. The Darokinian envoy then simply adds, "Leave. . . now." The dwarf gauges the elven force, spits in their direction and, without another word returns inside the city gates. Before the end of the day, the dwarven forces of Selenica return to Ylaruam.
His Most Exalted and Sovereign Majesty, King Kol of Glantri, Defender of the Land, Saviour of the People (etc, etc) proclaims his independence from "Ugrah-The-Tyrant" for the greater glory of Glantri! He successfully positions his forces to block the passes leading out of the Broken Lands. The retreating remnants of the Thunderous Horde are stranded inside the Broken Lands, there to be finished off by a few thousand kobolds under Kol's command. Meanwhile, in western Glantri, packs of werewolves are attacking bands of humanoid stragglers still lingering there. Synn, who had quietly returned to Glantri, is also doing her part secretly. She enchants a vast number of pumpkin patches, animating the vegetables into tough, dangerous, and bizarre warriors. They form into little bands, hunting down the remainder of Ugrah's humanoids scattered outside Glantri City.
At the news of Ugrah's sudden demise and Kol's impudent proclamation, the Alphatians of New Sundsvall march out of Boldavia. They storm the pass leading into northern Glantri and begin their conquest of the much-hated nation. Meanwhile further north, the war has shifted into Denagoth as a joint Wendarian-Heldannic army begins rooting out evil from these savage lands. The Glantrian army rides back to the capital city of Wendar awaiting new orders.
Down in Thyatis, Moglai Khan's forces storm the city of Biazzan. Despite a good defence, it surrenders under the repeated attacks of Ethengarian Skyriders and Alphatian wizards. Moglai orders his army to hold Biazzan and prepare for the winter. The Thyatian army approaches, flanked with its massive Jennite cavalry. Before the end of the year, Thyatis builds fortified camps in the area to contain any further Ethengarian moves to the south.