Elfinshi War

From ShireWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
The Elfinshi War
Date: 1488-1489 (Elw Calendar)
Place: Barony of Elwynn, Raikoth
Casus belli: Appointment of Ardashir as Baron of Elwynn.
Ethnic violence. Peasants Revolt
Outcome: Genocide of Elfinshi population.
Burning of the Forest of Elwynn.
Babkhan settlement: founding of Ardashirshahr and Vijayanagara.
War of Vengeance.
Barony of Elwynn
- The Magistracy
- Babkhan Mercenaries
Duchy of Hyperborea
- Barony of Treesia and Fabon (support only)

Elwynnese Rebels

Elfinshi Guerrillas
Baron Ardashir,
Sir Majeed (KIA),
Rashid Arslani (PoW)
Duchy of Hyperborea: Duke Scott,
Lord Rulak,
Ard-Baron Zirandorthel

Elwynnese Rebels: Provost Stéfanos Marcerion (Executed)

Elfinshi Guerrillas:
8,000 Babkhan Riflemen
60,000 auxiliaries
Duchy of Hyperborea: 5,000 Raikothin Paladins

Elwynnese Rebels:
- The Great Company: 6,000+ brigands
- The Feudal Host of Elwynn: 5,821 knights, 10,900 Elw Longbowmen
- Tribal Warbands: 300,000+ fighting men

Elfinshi Guerrillas: 30,000+
30,000+ killed,

10,000+ wounded

1,246,300 fatalities (combatant and civilian) including 243,000 Elfinshi
Majority of casualties caused by inter-rebel fighting and lawlessness


The Elfinshi War was caused by the ascendancy of the Baron Ardashir releasing the ethnic and class tensions that the preceding reign of Duchess Mari Greenwood had kept pent up.

The vast majority of the interior of Elwynn was forest but of a hollow variegated sort. The forest was streaked through with tracts of farmland. Between the two rivers of Elwynn laid any number of villages, hamlets and homesteads, and in truth no one had ever bothered to conduct a census or audit in those parts. Nonetheless those peasants who had been previously endured forced corvée and regular tithing by the Elfinshi now anticipated the most generous democracy and automatic presumption of all their rights to life and property now that the old regime was coming to an end and a new human led government was promised to enter the land. It made now odds that the peasants desired reforms that would see them owning land that the new Baron wanted for his own interests. These were the early days when a new hope had been kindled that had yet to sour.

A Note on Chronology

The year begins, by tradition on the first of Silnuai, and ends in the 336-day year on the 24th of Rugaall, while all other years the year ends on the last day of the leap month Qinamu (which is the 12th in a 348-day year, the 24th in a 360-day year or the 36th in a 372-day year).

The most common length of a year is 372 days and that year always has a full Qinamu, 36 days and thereby is the longest month of the year, half as long as all others).

By tradition, the Elw divide their year in eight seasons, not the "common" four. They have the mundane names (but in Elw) of being the glistening, blushing, rainy, frosty, snowy, melting, flowering and shining seasons. The exception is probably for summer, the shining and glistening seasons combined, which is commonly known as summer (or in Elw, roqpin).

Accordingly the Winter and Spring seasons always lie at the beginning of the year that ends in the autumnal months of Rugaall or Qinamu.

The Long Bloody Summer of 1488

The Joyous Entrance at Eliria

The Peasants: More Revolting Than Usual

Small wonder then that the vast majority of the population rose up in revolt before the second week of the Baron's reign was past. The object of their fury being the Elfinshi landowning classes that had not yet seen the writing on the wall that their time was done and it would be prudent to quit their treetop manor halls.

The Baron Ardashir Khan Osmani spent the month after the securing of Elwynn from his predecessor deeply involved in the wholesale clearance of the landed smallholders from the lands which he had designated as afforested, that is to say designated as his own to the exclusion of all others. The forests were his exclusive hunting preserve and recreational areas, making up now the greater portion of his domain, and this was the publicly acknowledged reason for their existence. Much more important than this however was the fact that they gave the Baron pre-emptive control over land – the most precious resource of an agrarian society. The afforested lands of Elwynn were much more than a baronial playground however; forestland was a source of easy revenue and could be farmed out to the highest bidder. Additionally, venison and other forest products were now at the Baron's disposal – whether as concessions to loyal members of his retinue or to be sold as cash commodities.

It becomes apparent however that, in the earliest days of the new reign at least, the intentions of the new Baron were not necessarily genocidal in their intent, instead being rather more brutally acquisitive in nature. In that land that had been afforested by the Great Osmanid Charter, the Baron had assigned himself the prerogative to apply his will in as arbitrary a way as he saw fit, not in accordance to the model of Common Law that he had established in the Magistracy, a narrow belt of land along the East and West Elwynn rivers up to the border with the Shirekeep. This enabled his officers to deal severely with poachers, which allowed the Baron and his henchmen to take drastic action against any outlaws lurking in the forests. As news of murdered Elfinshi, hall-burnings and tree-toppling reached the Baron and his retinue. Ardashir, at the stroke of a pen, took the Zurvan given opportunity to outlaw the entire population of those mutinous manor villages and townships whom he wished to evict and supplant with his own followers. Such it was that the butchery began. The main target of this land clearance was southern regions of what would become Lesser Zjandaria but which were at the time still known as Northshire after the initial holdings of the Shirerithians in their conquest of the north. The reasons for choosing this land had mostly to do with its comparative fertility, good river trading links and proximity to Shirekeep, which Ardashir especially hoped would allow him to acquire in time a strategic leverage over the Kaisers.

When the farmers began to beat their ploughshares into swords and when the herdsmen turned their rifles away from the wolves that preyed on their flocks and instead trained them on the villains in the Baron's employ it appeared as if Ardashir was going to be swept from Shireroth within a matter of days. Indeed as far as the natives were concerned it was as though the Elfinshi Rochben and squires who had so recently and so arrogantly rode in amongst them had disappeared and they were in no mood to accept foresters and bailiffs arriving in their stead.

Presumptuously the leading representatives of the peasantry came together, along with - ironically enough - such elves as had not been wise enough to migrate to Delvenus with the erstwhile Baronness, at the ancient highland castle known as Fort Francis, therein they did elect one Stéfanos Marcerion as their Provost and leader. In the meantime a rumour had become widespread among the rebels that the Baron himself had fled abroad and that his short reign was over.

Elated, Provost Marcerion sent envoys to the Duke of Hyperborea with news of the Baron’s overthrow together with a request that he be recognised as Baron of Elwynn. This was a double mistake. The Elves had pledged their support to the rebellion in the hope of restoring the Duchy and their own cultural hegemony – the recognition of the Duke Scott's hegemony was anathema to them and so it was that they, in disgust, took up their weapons and with a bloody slaughter fought their way clear from the rebel encampment and retreated into the forests to make their own separate stand. The second, and still more grievous, error was the presumption that the Duke was supportive of the rebel cause and restoration of the status quo as it was before Ardashir’s arrival. In truth however the Duke’s chief concern was to ensure that his frozen home islands never ever came under the thumb of the Elwynnesse again. On that level it was natural that he would prefer an absentee Babkhan vassal than any sort of Elwynnesse patriot complete with grass root support and the suspicion of separatist tendencies. Moreover, always keen to present the semblance of fealty required of him, Baron Osmani had made out a large tribute of gold and precious (or at least semi-precious) stones and sent it on too Thule with notice that Duke Scott had been made a member of the prestigious, or so it was said, Order of the Dead Stag. Suitably impressed by the Baron’s offerings the Duke permitted the rebel Provost’s envoy to freeze to death in the snow outside his palace – for in truth the Duke was not quite the scrupulously ethical individual everyone had him marked down as.

While, unbeknownst to Marcerion, the Provost’s representative in Thule slowly succumbed to the ravages of hypothermia a curious lethargy and complacent spirit set in amongst the rebels. They seemed content to wait at Fort Francis for the Duke’s confirmation of the Provost’s coup, which off course never came. The Provost, most curiously, made no effort to secure the apparatus and mechanisms of governance in the Barony and thus the inevitable slide into anarchy began. Bored, unpaid, landless and hungry, the dispossessed proletariat element in the Provost’s rebel army drifted away from the main host at Fort Francis and began to make their living by extorting from travellers on the highways and by generally laying the countryside waste. Even on occasions their numbers swelled to such an extent that they could put entire towns to the sack. Their fury was directed against all those who since time immemorial had been settled in their estates.

Eventually these brigands began to gather together. While still lacking a coherent agenda they still had plenty of fury, something they desired to sate to the extent that the criminal bands began to cooperate. With no other discussion they set off at once, with no weapons but knives and iron shod sticks, to the house of a certain prominent citizen; a grain merchant who had made his fortune in Shirekeep. They broke into it and killed him, his wife and children, and then set the place on fire.

Next they went to a strong villa where they did much worse, for they found an actor who had recently starred in a production of Mogbeth down river in the Barony of Lunaris. They took this darling of the stage and put him on a split and roasted him in front of his wife and children; after ten or a dozen of them had raped the lady, they tried to force her to eat some of her dead husband; then they killed her and the children and set the place on fire.

They did the same to several other good houses and the number of these brigands grew to at least six thousand. At that moment the memorable and infamous Great Company was formed, whose leaders were for the most part Elwynnesse but there were some Treesians and Yardistanis amongst them. Drawing many of the rebels and criminal deviants to them they marched through Elwynn and took the city of Eliria together with many towns and castles. They liberated the Eliria Penal Reservation and those dregs who had been exiled in there broke loose and rampaged across the countryside extorting payments from castles, towns and cities in exchange for so-called protection; nor could anyone live safely in that region unless he enjoyed their goodwill.

The Autumnal Seasons of 1488

In all this time the Baron had not been idle. Instead he had been quietly ensuring that the Magistracy, which enjoyed more lenient government under a Babkhan knight known as Sir Majeed, and the other two penal reservations, which endured the utmost repression under the Baron’s Wardens, stayed quietly loyal to his cause. Indeed he did slip abroad during the upheavals but it was not to permanent exile but merely across the waters to those garrisoned strongpoints in Treesia that are known as Babkhan Prinitica to collect an army from the local Atebeg Rashid Araslani.

Overtures and Betrayals

Time passed and Provost Marcerion finally despaired of receiving confirmation from the Duke and had given up hope of ever hearing from his envoy, his most beloved cousin, ever again. At the same time he saw how weak his position had become now that the Great Company was plundering Elwynn. The Provost sent letters to Sir Majeed requesting his aid against the rebels. In return the Provost rashly promised independence for the Magistracy, a promise that was not his to make.

In no time at all the letter to Sir Majeed found its way into the hands of the Baron who was spending the bitter harvest season at Fabon with the somewhat beleaguered Babkhan garrison there. Received well by the Atebeg on his state yacht/gunboat anchored at Failte the Baron had been sent on up the coast with a commission to Fabon having been told he could collect an army there. The Baron was however not so much disappointed as utterly alarmed at what he found when he arrived.

The majority of the 8,000 Babkhan soldiers, often drawn from the boozing establishments of Lighthouse and the malarial swamps of Kumarastan, were the worst in all the Imperial Army. Being untrained, ill equipped, and poorly led. Some had only recently been issued with modern assault rifles and did not understand how to use them properly. There were soldiers from all parts of the Shahanshah’s Commonwealth, speaking twelve different languages, following different faiths, including an alarming minority of adherents to Treesian Unorthodoxy and led by officers from Kamalshahr who had in some instances not seen their units prior to embarkation at Susa. More alarming still were the native levies of the Atebeg’s Rifles (5th Battalion) whose distinguishing features were a complete lack of rifles and a discipline problem so acute that their commanding Babkhan officers dared not issue the Treesian conscripts with anything more dangerous than pointy sticks, and even these had to be returned to the armoury at night lest the Treesians made use of the darkness to poke their officers to death and open the gates.

Moreover they were ill prepared for the grim autumn weather as the Imperial Army Quartermaster was locked in a dispute with the Atebeg of Prinitica over who was responsible for the provisioning of the garrisons in the Northern Hemisphere. The question was fast becoming academic anyway, the Treeisan besiegers had constructed a trebuchet that lobed a not insignificant fifty-pounds of primed explosive into the city at regular intervals during the day. The only artillery piece available to the Babkhans north of Lighthouse, a rocket launcher known affectionately as Nouradin’s Catapult, was out of commission owing to the exhaustion of all stockpiles of liquid oxygen rocket propellant available. Tragically, attempts at manufacturing ersatz rocket fuel from industrial alcohol and extract of sugar beet had resulted in a great fire that had consumed half the city. It was recorded as being a bitter disappointment to both the Babkhan garrison and the Ard-Baron’s men besieging the city that the Great Cathedral of Treesian Unorthodoxy had not been consumed by the conflagration, the turbulent priests were once more in revolt against both the Atebeg and the Ard-Baron. Accordingly most of Fabon had been reduced to smouldering rubble and the city walls were well on their way to joining most of the city levelled in the dust. Morale was alarmingly low all round and a mutinous spirit was abroad in both the troops and the native population. The Baron, his retinue and the commanding officers of the garrison were united in their desire to escape their thoroughly miserable situation.

So it came to pass that the letter revealing the Provosts appalling weakness was received as a godsend by the Babkhans. A conference was called and unanimously the Babkhan officers agreed to desert their posts in Fabon and sail for Elwynn at the earliest opportunity.

Hyperborean Calculation

In the meantime the Duke of Hyperborea, after a careful study of the conditions of mainland Lirkoth, had - desiring neither an Elfinshi nor a Babkhi victory - reached his conclusions and resolved to strike against all parties in the civil war. His reasons for doing so may be conjectured - the emergence of chaos was offensive to his sensibilities and moreover whilst a prostrate Elwynn posed no threat to Hyperborea the longer the civil war continued the greater the risk of an Imperial intervention in the north became. A strong Imperial presence could in turn threaten Hyperborea's cherished autonomy and freedom of action. For this reason it was prudent to act now to gain the initiative lest another party took it.

With prompt efficiency the Duke chose his moment when both parties were at their weakest and commissioned Rulak, a Volsung commander and his chosen heir, to assemble the Paladins and restore order to the mainland.

Rainy (Late) Autumn of 1488

The Matter of Transporting an Army

For the moment Baron Ardashir remained oblivious to this turn of events in the High North. Instead he faced a more immediate problem, the complete lack of a fleet to transport the 8,000 men to Elwynn. Back in 1487 Treesian piracy had escalated dramatically, privateer fleets owing nominal allegiance to the Ard-Baron could be found on all the major oceans of the world fighting an irregular naval war against the Shah and the Imperial Babkhan Navy was stretched to breaking point. As a consequence Babkhan shipping seldom came north of Aracigrad Island. The solution came from the most unlikely source; a flotilla of the very same Treesian pirates led by a certain Captain Jarrett, who was want to style himself Admiral among other things.

Although an officer of the Baronial Navy, Jarrett the privateer was still, at heart, a pirate and so discreet contact was made via a renegade Skerrian smuggler, who was allowed to travel freely backwards and forwards over the front line on account of being well known as an amiable drunk capable of discretion when it came to shifting cargo for the benefit of any and all parties. The Baron, being not only the holder of the badge of Grand Vizier but also a Babkhan of royal blood who sat on the throne of the Kapavs for a time after the mysterious death of Shahanshah Babak, had amassed a small fortune in gold bullion and other payments in kind that found their way into the vaults of Novo Tyrus and Kaligandaki. Now that dubiously acquired wealth was going to pay for the expedition.

So it was that in an abandoned Babkhan trench outside Fabon, covered from view by a collapsed section of the city’s wall the Baron surreptitiously passed over a letter of credit to the Pirate. In return for which he was promised the use of all Jarrett’s fleet including the cruiser Argabah, itself appropriated by the Treesian mafia from the dockyards of Zinjibar. Another letter of credit made its way the Ard-Baron, inspiring him to raise the siege. At the same time the Babkhans prepared to evacuate, which made the Unorthodox Church the victors at Fabon by default as the reduced Babkhan garrison comprised of 146 invalids and the ever dubious and ever rifleless 5th Battalion of the Atebeg’s Rifles.

Now Stéfanos Marcerion learned of the full extent of the preparations being made both in the Magistracy, where Sir Majeed had assembled his fellow knights and squires into a military household pledged to the Baron and known as the Familia Regis, a reference to the Osmani dynasty’s royal blood, and in Fabon where the Baron, his army and the hired pirate fleet were ready to set sail. The Provost was naturally alarmed, knowing that his faith in the Magistracy had proved unfounded and that the Baron was returning at the head of a foreign army. On account of this he sent word to Ardashir, asking him to desist in his preparations and stay at home, or in the very least Treesia. Knowing that the anointed Baron would be loath to do so on his own accord the Provost sent along with his message a sum of money equivalent to three million rials as an inducement together with the promise of an annual tribute if he desisted. Ardashir in true fashion took the money but strangled the messengers and used the unexpected windfall to better provision the troops. Knowing that the Provost was desperate to ensure he stayed away made the Baron even more eager to return.

The army embarked with the onset of the winter storms, daring to risk all on the high seas for the lure of Benacian plunder. There was however one small, rather embarrassing, incident to get out of the way first. The Atebeg of Babkhan Prinitica had been only too pleased to give Ardashir a slip of paper authorising him to collect troops from Fabon to support his harebrained scheme. From the Babkhan perspective a colonial governor is unlikely to appreciate having the Grand Vizier from the metropolitan mainland breathing down his neck, the authorisation note cost nothing and was an easy way to get rid of a troublemaker (for whenever Ardashir Khan Osmani visited Treesia there was invariably trouble of some kind). Once the Atebeg learned that on the Baron’s initiative his entire garrison was deserting he lifted his ineffectual blockade of the “separatists” in Failte and rushed north to prevent the Elwynn Expedition. Prevent is perhaps too strong a word for against the fleet of transport ships, sheltering under the guns of the Argabah, came the Pleasure Cruiser Stella, the Atebeg’s floating headquarters, onto which a 15 pounder artillery piece had been bolted to its bow thus upgrading it to a destroyer, which was a rather optimistic designation in the opinion of many.

The Atebeg brought the Stella in close to the fleet, mainly on account of the shortage of ammunition for the 15-pounder, a consequence of the dispute with the Imperial Quartermaster’s Office. Instead the Atebeg instructed his men to use flares and small arms fire against the ships. The Stella put up a stern fight until it was swamped by the bow wave of a passing transport, and the fleet sailed blithely on out to sea. A life preserver was thrown into the water once the Atebeg was seen to resurface. A Koroch fishing boat eventually rescued Rashid Arslani. He was subsequently sold as a hostage among the Treesian nobility until he wound up in the service of the Ard-Baron as court jester. That he survived this ordeal and went on to become a Shahanshah of Babkha and a Kaiser of Shireroth surprised him as much as it did everybody else.

The Bitter Winter of 1489

Manoeuvring for Advantage in the Seasons of Frost and Snow

It took sixteen days to reach the coast of Elwynn; the convoy had been sailing against a fierce storm front that had confined most of the soldiers to their bunks for the duration. From the very moment of their disembarkation into the obscure little harbour that would in due course become Vijayanagara they found their landing and their presence opposed by Raikothlin Paladins who were abroad in the land in considerable numbers having landed days earlier in a fjord seventy miles north-west after a crossing that had taken them from Raikoth to Cimmeria and then to the mainland in what was not yet then the county of Agnesia. After some skirmishing it was discovered that heralds had been sent out across the country in Rulak's name declaring the Baron deposed and subject to arrest. It appeared that Ardashir had returned too late and was in danger of forfeiting the realm before he had even begun to fight. Fortunately for Ardashir, Rulak's other decision had been to suppress the Order of the Dead Stag, this incensed its beneficiaries and rallied them to his cause. Moreover, rumours of the deposition reached the Babkhan ambassador in Shirekeep who, with recourse to the diplomatic wires back to Kamalshahr, was able to bring to the Kaiser a stinging and unusually severe rebuke from the usually mild and pragmatic Shahanshah Tahmaseb. Faced by this, the Kaiser, who had become exasperated by the entire affair, declared the neutrality of the Imperial institutions.

Hyperborea was on its own against Babkha. The fate of Elwynn was in the balance.

Second (Less Joyous) Entrance into Eliria

Day of the Barricades


Withdrawal to Winter Camps

Foraging and Raiding

Hungry, Cold & Mutinous Babkhans - a Difficult Crowd to Please

For the Babkhan mercenaries who, at this stage, comprised the bulk of the immediate force that the Baron could call upon, a more pressing concern was the sense that they had, by the connivance of their self-same renegade Grand Vizier, into the cold, partially frozen swampy coniferous forests of high Elwynn. In so doing they found themselves without decent drink, lacking sufficient food, counting their remaining bullets with judicious care and listening with a tentative ear to the sounds of the night in the impenetrable gloom of the taiga where any number of persons or things unknown could be silently waiting and encompassing plans for their very brutal and sudden demise.

Set against this, the promise of a share and a half of loot and the grant of land yet to be won seemed scant recompense for such a foolhardy venture as seeking to mount a siege of the vast promontory known to later generations as Cape Farewell in the depth of winter.

Spring 1489: After the Thaw - War Resumes

The Pacification of Araxion

Following the stalemate in the north and the retreat of the armies to their winter quarters, spring heralded a return to fighting and all eyes turned to the south. Sir Majeed had remained aloof from the fighting in Agnesia and around Eliria. Some speculated that he had been holding out for a better offer from Lord Rulak. If this was so then nothing came of it, for when the year entered the season of the thaw Sir Majeed struck up the White Elwynn and led his auxiliaries out of the Magistracy and into Araxion, an afforested portion of the realm in the possession of the Provost's feudal host. The objective was to secure provisions and plunder - the southern districts known as Northshire having had barely enough provender to see Sir Majeed's army through the winter. Now, rather than risk the remaining grain seed that would be needed for the sowing season, Sir Majeed, resolved to keep his army fed and gainfully employed by despoiling the villages and manors of the enemy.

Sir Majeed's pacification of Araxion.

At some point during the long winter months Sir Majeed had also taken it upon himself to start adopting native attire and customs. Gone were the turbans and fezzes which had adorned his head when he had first arrived in the country. Instead he began to feel comfortable disporting himself in the style of a native count. When news of this affectation first reached Baron Ardashir, he was reportedly not best pleased and whilst he did not yet order the dispatch of assassins he did give, for the first time, instructions that his loyal if distant lieutenant was to be placed under a more rigorous scrutiny than had hitherto been the case. The Baron was resolved to ensure that no-one in his entourage was to be in a position to supplant him or to build up too independent a power base. Having been left to his own devices in the Magistracy for the best part of half a year, Sir Majeed was in danger of becoming exactly that which the Baron feared.

Meanwhile, the progress of Sir Majeed's army had been hampered by a number of mishaps. Not long after crossing the frontier Sir Majeed was thrown from his charger as it reared up to avoid being struck by the bite of a venomous snake. He had been fortunate to escape from his fall with nothing worse than a broken ankle. The loss of dignity before his officers and sergeants had been a worse blow than the bodily harm. Not long after this incident, whilst Sir Majeed was laid up in his tent and his raiders dispatched to harry the countryside, an outbreak of the bloody flux struck the camp. From his sickbed Majeed was compelled to instruct that latrine waste be burned in pits outside of the palisade rather than be left in soil covered spoil heaps within the camp. Escorting the night-soil men was one of the least popular duties, frequently doled out as a punishment, but it kept the death-toll in the low hundreds. Or at least it did until the first reported case of cholera. Orders were given to only draw water from clear-running rivers and streams and to boil thoroughly before it is put to any further use. A further grim precaution was the command to drive out anyone suspected of having it, which grew into a camp wide expulsion of all the sick and invalid beyond the stockades, palisades and ditches of their camp. Most thus cast out were left in the shadow of the forest's edge to die pitifully of thirst or from hunger, the ravening of wild beasts or the gradual agonising mortification of their bodies. Naturally Sir Majeed did not count amongst those unfortunates.

The final straw was when the raiders horses began to succumb to that hateful disease known as the Strangler. The necks and throats of the infected horses were consumed with the abscesses that devoured their lymph glands whilst their ability to breathe was choked off by a heavy frothing nasal discharge of yellow dripping mucus, the spray of which covered the straw bedding and the horses' grooms guaranteeing the further spread of the vile sickness. Sir Majeed, now back on his feet and confronted by the horror, regretfully acceded to the advice of his master of horse and had the stricken animals led outside of the camp to be shot and burnt - their meat unfit to be consumed - along with the tainted straw and the tunics of the grooms, who were at least grateful not to be expelled to join the ranks of the dead and dying beyond the forest facing ditches.

After these series of incidents, the morale of the army had taken a knock, and the gradual rate of desertion, a common feature to any army not composed of fanatics or persons convinced of their own near god-like attributes, had started to become progressively more notable with each morning roll-call. The special parades and drumhead court-martial for hanging those caught in the act had some salutary effects, but could not prevent the more fearful or desperate from risking their necks in a bid for freedom.

Where Sir Majeed saw an insanitary camp sorely in need of discipline, his Elw retainers saw a host of supernatural forces working their evil magic. Sir Majeed was not convinced but he did see the need to be seen to do something to battle the illusory spectres that preyed upon the minds of his men as sure as actual disease preyed on their bodies.

So it was that he convened a council of the army and stood before it in his battle array declaiming his fury at the conspiracy of evil doers that sought to resist his will, not by fighting manfully with the force of arms but rather by the women's stratagem of casting unseen spells through muttered incantations from unseen places. In the age before the Froyalanish became established in the land it was still safe to say such things without an undue fear of the gelding knife, so it played well with the fearful audience who wanted nothing better than to be reassured of their own bravery. It was at this moment that Sir Majeed remembered the famous dictum that had somehow escaped into his memory from an obscure religious tract, and declared to his army "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." At this cue Majeed's lieutenants gave the order for the drums to beat out a stirring tattoo and for the men to cheer. The chant went round the in the mangled Elw-Babkhi that the army used: "Marg bar Elfinshi, Marg bar Hexen, Pîroz Osman": death to elves, death to witches, victory to Osman (Ardashir). The more the soldiers chanted, the more they convinced themselves and each other of the rightness of it, that their misfortunes were the consequence of noxious and vicious hidden enemy, a serpent to be trampled, weeds to be uprooted. Their war in Araxion would be righteous as well as pleasurable.

From this day, some maintain, began the death of the ancestral practice of magic in the realm of Elwynn, until the neo-pagan revival of more modern times, for the raid into Araxion now took on the aspect of a religious war and bands of troops set out into the countryside to agitate to the peasants against the tribal folk, the elfinshi, the elderly and infirm, the odd and the reclusive. All those traditionally suspected of magical practices or witchcraft, the scryers, the cunning folk, hedge-wizards, mages and the witches themselves, were to be found and slaughtered - their bodies to be burned, being unworthy of righteous burial.

The Great Company Raids Northshire

In the month of Gevrader of the year 1489, the Great Company, having exhausted all that could be plundered and consumed from the manors around Eliria, and having learned of Sir Majeed's foray into Araxion, began their own campaign.

All six thousand of the Great Company, joined by a multitude of warbands and mobs of peasants, set forth on the time-worn paths that lead from Eliria towards the southern portion of Elwynn that was, at that time, still known as Northshire, burning and laying waste manor halls and villages in the area.

One evening, at dusk, just as the shadows were gathering, a captain of the Great Company, Aaron by name, led a captured Babkhan envoy, Suhrāb Jahangir, up into a great and lofty tower. There, indicating all the land in the direction of Shirekeep to a distance of twelve kilometres which had been put to the torch, Aaron said to the envoy, 'My lord, does it seem to you that your baron has any power left in the land when he cannot even defend those few who have not rejected him?' The envoy, who had been roughly treated in the days since his capture, fell, as if in a faint, and laid stretched out on the roof of the tower, overcome with grief and fear.

For five weeks, the Great Company and its followers, swelling to a horde of twelve thousand brigands, rode and marched through the Northshire, using the same tactics, and every day this army laid waste as much of the countryside as it was able to. This continued until all the land along the banks of the White Elwynn, apart from the walled settlements and strongest houses, was completely devastated.

Early Summer 1489: The Breaking of the Great Company

Late Summer 1489: The Siege of Eliria

The Battle of Gallows Hill

From Defeat into Victory