The River War
|The River War|
|Date:||1635 (Elw Calendar)|
|Place:||Elwynnese Union, Shirekeep|
|Casus belli:||Surprise attack on Eliria by Imperial Volunteer Forces.|
|Outcome:||Elwynnese Victory. Conquest of Shirekeep. Accession of Kaiser Hjalmar. Ongoing Insurgency in the Vale of Angularis.|
|Imperial Republic of Shireroth
||Elwynnese Union |
|Princess Margana Win'Eth (PoW)
Mattias von Roon†
Joachim of Walstadt†
| Hallbjörn/Hjalmar |
|Imperial Shirerithian Air Forces: 34,200; 60 strike aircraft, 2 stealth fighters, 1 stealth bomber, 200 UCAV, 921 UAV
Imperial Volunteer Forces: 315,000
Order of the Final Days:
Behsaz Militia (Nationalist Faction): 25,000
Dark Orchid Society: 7,500
Brotherhood of Lest: Unknown (numerous)
|Fleur de Lys-Longships Guard: 252,617 |
Union Defence Force: 199,920
Leonid Guard: 3,000
Vanic Temple Guard:13,000
Corps of the Gentlemen-at-Cudgels: 48,661
Emirati Riddare: 11,045
Behsaz Militia (Royalist Faction): 15,000
|Over 400,000 civilians displaced by fighting around Shirekeep|
42,000 civilian fatalities in Eliria, Alalehzamin and Shirekeep
The River War was an unsuccessful attempt by hard-line Cedrists and Elwynnese ultra-nationalists to mount a quick decapitation strike on the Monarchy of Elwynn which was led by Princess Margana, the daughter of Kaiser Brrapa VII and sponsored by the patricians of Shirekeep and the Court within Raynor's Keep.
In spite of being well resourced and brutally executed, the attempted takeover of Elwynn by a combination of a coup and 'hybrid warfare' failed spectacularly and rebounded upon the heads of the plotters. Not only were they unsuccessful in their efforts to exterminate the Royal Family of Elwynn but the war ended with the King's father entering Shirekeep as a conqueror.
Reire 9 Vixaslaa, 1623 - The Abdication of the Prince Jonathan. Storjarl Hallbjörn Haraldsson appointed Steward for Prince Thorstein Noah. Courtiers in Shirekeep alarmed. Republicans, Communists, Nationalists & Humanists in Elwynn furious.
23 Vixaslaa, 1623 - Concordat of Avaldsnes. Cedrists outraged at the introduction of 'yet more foreign demons'. Church of Elwynn notably unhappy at the White Orchid Temple being confirmed in the possession of the priesthood of the Froyalanish Ancient Ways.
Amnure 19 Gevrader, 1629 - Prince Noah is elevated to kingship, the first in Elwynn's history and a break with tradition and precedent that infuriates Ayreonists.
Izillare 8 Vixaslaa, 1629 - The Union Defence Force re-established.
23 Vixaslaa 1630: Constitution amended to further criminalise discrimination against non-human 'Sentient Beings'. Perceived by Humanists as undermining the Human Supremacy in Elwynn for the benefit of the Vanafolk.
Reire 9 Fasmas, 1633 - Kaiser Brrapa VII ascends the Golden Mango Throne. Hallbjörn Haraldsson appointed Steward of Shireroth.
Reire 21 Araroqpinu, 1633 - Father Dominus, Master of the Order of the Final Days granted royal patronage to defend the Cedrist Faith. Originally intended to target Sighvat the Yardistani.
TBC 1633/1634 - Margana WinEith falls under the influence of Father Dominus.
1634 - Margana WinEith engaged to protegee of Father Dominus, Count Delven of Kezan.
Early 1635 - The murder of Count Delven by Deimos Jasonides (why not) after an altercation in a bar. Stricken with grief and rage, counselled by Father Dominus, Margana aligns strongly with the faction in the Imperial Court that advocates a preemptive war against Elwynn before it grows to dominate all of Shireroth.
18 Araroqpinu 1635 - al-Zaraqi Cell (Jingdaoese Tegong) organises a medical kidnapping and stages an attempt on the life of heavily pregnant Queen Noor. Heavy handed response by the security forces results in localised fighting in Alalehzamin and Utasia. Conspirators take advantage to begin moving assets into Elwynn.
24 Araroqpinu, 1635 - Attack on Eliria.
Reire 15 Elroqpinu, 1635 - Siege of Shirekeep begins.
Izillare 20 Elroqpinu, 1635 - UDF enters Shirekeep. Death of Brrapa VII. Hallbjörn acclaimed as Kaiser Hjalmar.
The Beginnings of a Conspiracy
A Coalition of the Desperate and the Damned
The Plan takes Shape
Battle of Eliria
At 0730 on [insert date] Bombs detonated along the route of the King's traditional morning procession. Mass civilian casualties ensue. Hallbjörn Haraldsson rushed to the scene at the head of a security detail under his personal command to ensure the safety of the King and to extract him from harms way. Gunmen ambush the first-responders arriving at the scene, including Hallbjörn's detachment, killing most and wounding Hallbjörn who is cut off and pursued by a death-squad as a high priority target. In the meantime Noah, although encumbered by ceremonial armour and thrown from his eviscerated horse, had managed to stagger clear of the kill zone, although dazed and bloodied as he did so. He remained however, singularly conspicuous and his attackers quickly set to work trying to bring him down. The King however was not one for yielding. After hacking to death one assailant who foolishly had defied orders and tried to capture him alive, Noah was saved by loyalist civilians who, by acting as human shields, sacrificed their lives buying him time to escape. The King was then rescued by a detachment of Longships Guardsmen, who delivered him to the police barracks on Cho'Gall Avenue.
Under the cover of this carnage the plotters launched a devastating surprise attack on Eliria utilising mercenaries and rebel militants smuggled into the city during the days prior to the attack. Prince Nathaniel International Airport stormed by terrorists disembarking from a specially chartered flight.
At 0735 the UDF Aerodrome and main depot in Eliria was hit by cruise missile strikes conducted by the Strike Command of the Imperial Shirerithian Air Forces (ISAF), which however was at that time under the effective Department of Applied Eschatology. The base was bracketed by 8 cruise missiles and 4 "short-range" missiles followed by a conventional bombing run by a stealth bomber and a swarming attack by UCAVs effectively closing down the aerodrome and preventing any UDF aviation assets from providing air support to the security forces in the capital.
The Palace of Krull and Eliria Castle was locked down by the palace guards and suicide car bombers where thwarted by a combination of automatically raised steel barriers on the approach roads to the palaces and accurate sniper fire from the turrets and battlements of Eliria Castle. The chaos however meant that both Noah and Hallbjörn were, for the moment, effectively incommunicado, leaving the task of organising a response in the hands of Fjǫrleif Hallbjörnsdóttir and the slightly improbable character of Yumi Zotrasdóttir.
Hallbjörn, trapped out on the streets and forced to engage in a battle of wits with his pursuers, began to turn the tables on them by leaving false trails causing the assailants to split up, allowing him to double back and begin to pick them off, one at a time, whittling down their numbers and undermining their morale and resolve at a time when they needed to be brutal and decisive in order to achieve their objectives before the authorities were able to re-establish their command structures and bring overwhelming firepower to bear.
As noted the principle UDF aerodrome in Eliria was struck at 0735 by air assets under the command of the Department of Applied Eschatology, now however follow up attacks were begun against the more substantial assets then held by the Longships Guard (which at this time was the more formidable of the two armed forces in Elwynn, the UDF still undergoing the slow process of force-regeneration after its re-establishment in 1629). The main strike force of the ISAF, comprised of six Jagdgeschwader of F8 Shrike strike aircraft, now entered the fray in a series of devastating sorties split over three successive waves.
First wave (0745): 11 airfields around Eliria were attacked by 40 ISAF aircraft and 8 radar stations were destroyed by a combination of UCAVs, stealth fighters and attack helicopters. Second wave (0930): 16 airfields around Ardashirshahr were attacked by 20 ISAF strike aircraft supported by 4 pairs of UAV reconnaissance drones providing continuous overwatch of the target locations as each airfield was it in sequence. Third Wave (1215): 85 UCAV drone strkes against Eliria, 48 against Ardashirshahr, 67 against Echo and one stealth bomber mission against Krull Palace.
Although the attack on Eliria failed in its key objective of decapitating the Elwynnese regime in a single blow it must however be considered a considerable success as it knocked out a dozen airfields, destroyed an appreciable number of UDF combat aircraft and seriously degraded the command and control structures of the Elwynnese forces whilst throwing the political system into chaos.
For the coup plotters and their backers in Shirekeep the next step was to build upon this early success and bring sufficient force to bear in order to crush Elwynn before its forces could rally. At that moment reinforcements, in the shape of 10,000 hired mercenaries pledged to the House of Win'Eth were already on their way north, having set sail from Shirekeep in converted and armoured grain barges during the preceding night. Ahead of this main force, small teams of commandos from sympathetic factions in the Imperial military, were already active in seeking to secure the key points along the White Elwynn that were vital for the voyage of the main force northwards to Eliria. Their first target was Islus.
Battle of Islus
The strategic importance of Islus for the coup plotters was that it controlled the East Elwynn Sluices which controlled the flow of water on the White Elwynn and served as a barrier to navigation between Shirekeep and Eliria. For the bulk of the mercenary force to continue its journey northwards it would be necessary to secure the sluices.
The Imperial Volunteer Forces launched their offensive on the same day as the attacks in Eliria unfolded, no pre-raid bombing took place as to avoid damaging infrastructure in and around the sluices and to maintain the element of surprise. Destruction of the East Elwynn Sluice would have had grave results for both sides and the peoples of Elwynn, Goldshire and Shirekeep.
The strike force disembarked at a landing zone 1.3km north-west of the sluices from a rigid airship disguised as a Ryker blimp that had experienced technical problems and been obliged to make a forced landing just inside Elwynnese territory. A convoy of four ambulances, two fire-engines and a heavy rescue vehicle was dispatched by the Islus Commandery of the Society of St. Harald's Emergency Services (SHES) and swiftly arrived at the scene. The emergency workers were allowed to begin their inspection of the airship before the crew and 'passengers' of the revealed their hostile intent, at which point it was too late and those who tried to radio a warning back to Islus were gunned down in the cabs of their vehicles. In this manner an ambulances and the two fire-engines were rendered inoperable. A total of thirty society members (eighteen male confrères, twelve female consœurs) comprised of ten paramedics, eleven fire fighters and nine rescue specialists, including the twice decorated King's Rescuer, Ahmed Farhan KR, were forcibly detained by the commandos. These prisoners were then led into a nearby copse where they were forced to strip out of their uniforms before being forced to kneel down naked in the dirt. Each one was then executed by being shot once in the base of the skull at point blank range by a semi-automatic weapon. The bodies, subsequently identifiable only from their dental records, were left where they had fallen. The commandos then gathered up the discarded uniforms and returned to the airship where they quickly washed the blood from their hands and faces before selecting who from amongst their number would don the SHES uniforms. Taking the surviving two ambulances and the heavy rescue vehicle, a party of fifteen commandos set off in the direction of the sluice. Taking full advantage of their disguises the raiding party gained access to the perimeter at the west gate, whereupon they were able to surprise and overpower the Emirati Riddare guards before garroting them and leaving behind a party of five men, now changed into those uniforms, to hold the gate for the main party of the strike force, who were advancing on foot. The bodies were dragged out of view and dumped into a janitor's cupboard in the guardroom.
The remaining ten men took the heavy rescue vehicle and drove round to the pound locks and floodgates of the navigable western channel of the White Elwynn. Holding this would prove crucial to allowing the towed invasion barges to sail north beyond Islus.
Although it was unbeknown to the attackers at this stage, they had already lost the advantage of surprise. It so happened that, on that morning, a shepherd had taken the local baker's young daughter into that same copse so that they might get to know each other better before returning to their respective chores for the day. As it happened, they had become so thoroughly acquainted that they had fallen into a deep slumber and overslept to the point that the morning was well advanced when they were rudely awoken by a succession of loud gunshots. Crawling through the undergrowth, they were able to observe the raiders departing the scene of the massacre. Pausing only to gather up their clothes, the pair crept through to the edge of the copse where they were able to see the whole scene of armed men stood in front of a vast airship, changing uniforms and taking the three commandeered vehicles and driving off in the direction of the sluices. They also saw a party of eighty heavily armed men in khaki combat fatigues form up and set off on foot in the same direction. This left five men, two in uniforms of the Ryker Airship's corporation and three in civilian clothes of a cut that suggested plain-clothes detectives of the Corps of Gentlemen-at-Cudgels to clean up the crime scene and to deal with any countryside strollers come to gawp at the grounded airship. Appalled at what they had witnessed, the pair doubled back into the dense and tangled foliage of the copse. Their distress was multiplied as, in their hurry they blundered onto the row of mowed down corpses. Rushing now through the undergrowth, but fortunately not pursued, they had, after moments of agonising dread and mounting panic, managed to locate their bicycles and retraced their route out of the copse along the by-lane that led back to the rural outskirts of Islus. The baker's daughter had an Elwnet enabled communications hailer and, as soon as she heard the ping that confirmed she had a signal, she was able to place a call alerting the authorities that 'terrorists' had brought an airship down near the East Elwynn Sluice and murdered the first-responders.
By now the first garbled reports of the atrocities in Eliria were starting to fly over the Elwnet and this emergency call, combined with the earlier reports of an airship in distress, was sufficient to spark considerable alarm amongst the authorities in Islus.
Disaster at Zoroaster
Struggling to react to the news of the fall of Islus, the Arandur of Alalehzamin and Utasia dispatched his aide, an Alexandrian who rejoiced in the name of Francisco Solano Burnside, to take command of what forces could be gathered in the precinct to halt the advance on Eliria and retake the second city of the Emirate. It did not prove to be an inspired choice.
The man, described as a 'tsunami of corpulent flesh' with a pear-shaped face and heavy pendulous jowls, was often ridiculed for having lost all semblance of the human form. Moreover, this physically repulsive megalomaniac fancied himself as an expert of military matters and had built his career upon somehow being able to convince his colleagues of this quite improbable fact. He was even known, it was said, to keep one arm inside his jacket to ape the posture of that famous general Lord Montague. At this first conference with the contactable UDF commanders and various paramilitary leaders in a hastily convened 'operations room' in Xahazerke city hall, he was however able to impress upon those gathered there a sense of his determination and confidence. It was a pity for them all that this was a confidence without foundation.
Islus, he portentously informed them, was the key to control of the White Elwynn, without it there could be no victory and Eliria could not be defended. Without hesitation he ordered Brigadgeneral Mankell to mobilise the 101st Elwynnbrigaden and to take it back. His certitude of victory was reinforced by the flattery of the politically astute Kapten Eliza Carstens, who now became his foremost accomplice. It is fair to say that she was possessed of a personality almost as dreadful as that of Burnside himself. Indeed it was Carstens, who claimed to be the third cousin of the late Conducător Royston Merrick, who fed Burnside's vanity, filling his mind with ideas of military greatness. Henceforth she was always at his side urging him onwards and it is widely presumed that she became his mistress after that first evening.
It was probably at her suggestion that a state banquet and formal ball was organised in Xahazerke, a town that had, in all likelihood, never previously witnessed such a spectacle. Eliza certainly was at the fore when it came to managing the event. All the burghers of the city were instructed, on the pain of deliberately unspecified consequences, to appear in their richest clothes and the ladies to year all their jewels. An oil painting of King Noah was placed upon an empty throne and everyone obediently bowed to his likeness throughout the evening during the six course banquet. No sooner had the orchestra finished its uncertain recital of the National Anthem and struck up the first chords of the first dance, which Francisco's waddling form had the dubious privilege of leading, when a motorcycle courier arrived bringing Burnside news of the 101st's surrender to the coup plotters. Burnside lost what little self-control he normally possessed, shrieking the foulest imaginable curses against the name of Mankell. The Brigadier-General, wisely as it happened, elected not to return with news of his humiliation and instead travelled south to Shirekeep as an honoured prisoner, to make his submission to the Mango Throne. In his absence Mankell's family was subjected to a vindictive and vicious 'writ of cudgelling' instead. In the absence of the normal peacetime rules and procedures, the punishment beating was appallingly brutal and the Brigadier-General's nine-year old son subsequently died from internal bleeding on the brain caused by a fractured skull.
As for the disaster that overwhelmed the 101st, it proved to be one of the worst humiliations to ever befall the UDF.
Repulse at Echo
The significant impact of the Battle of Echo was that the Elwynnese forces learned how to use their ground based air-defence assets to neutralise the threat posed by the stealth aircraft and the UCAV swarming tactics of the ISAF. Without close air support the armoured barges of the invasion fleet were ponderous and vulnerable to tank and artillery fire from the shore resulting in their destruction and the failure of the mercenary advance on Eliria.
Forced to turn about, the surviving barges were beached along the western shore of the river in Utasia. The mercenaries, harassed now by detachments of cudgellers and Longship Guards, fought their way southwards through Alalehzamin towards Shirekeep and the perceived safety of Raynor's Keep. In so doing they found themselves ensnared in the bitter communal strife that had erupted in the Babkhi community between those who wished to cast of the hated yoke of Froyalanish rule and those who were even more atavistic in their hatred of the Sathrati kuffar.
Battles developed a crude rhythm; whenever the mercenaries and the Imperialists turned to make an stand and fight, the pursuing Elwynnese scouts would pull back after initial contact and put a call in for artillery support to hold the enemy in place whilst mechanised infantry and armour caught up. These forces would then close in to lay down a suppressing fire upon the Imperialists whilst cudgellers, the Vanic Temple Guards and the Behsaz militia converged on the scene. These forces would be held back while the firefight raged, but once it showed signs of slacking, as ammunition ran low on both sides, the paramilitary elements would be sent swarming forward under the cover of a final fusillade, to try and flush the Imperialists out of their positions, typically a rocky outcrop, a forest plantation, a sacred grove or a deserted hamlet, in close-quarter and melee combat. The mercenaries and Imperialists quickly adapted to these tactics, conserving mortar rounds and machine-gun ammunition to enable the repulse of any 'human wave' attacks. Nonetheless, on many occasions it was reduced down to a grim slaughter of bayonet against sword, throwing knife against bow, and sharpened trenching spade against cudgel, before the surviving Imperialists could hack their way clear of the encirclement and continue the wearying yet frantic trudge southwards.
Siege of Shirekeep
It was said by some that Brrapa VII was conveniently ill at the start of the war and conveniently dead at its end.
One of the notable aspects of the war, which effectively lasted for two months at most, was the rate at which stockpiles of modern hi-tech guided munitions and missiles were rapidly depleted. The Imperial Shirerithian Air Forces (ISAF) had expended its reserves of cruise missiles within the first week of the conflict and was still trying to acquire and adapt ship launched missiles from the Imperial Shirerithian Navy (which had remained neutral in the conflict) by the time the war ended. Similarly the UDF had been caught short and taken by surprise by the war and was still trying to reactivate the Southron Barrage programme by the war's end. The UDF had also run its stockpiles of medium-range anti-aircraft missiles down to the point of exhaustion during the Battle of Echo. The decision of the Imperialists to hold back their remaining air assets, particularly the UCAVs, after the shocking losses of that engagement proved to be the hinge point that turned what might have been a mere setback into the decisive victory that ensured the survival of the Elwynnese Union and its eventual victory.
By the final weeks of the war even the supplies of unguided 'dumb' bombs were being run down to the point that the Arandur of Alalehzamin and Utasia was obliged to establish workshops to produce crude unguided rockets in order to keep up the rate of fire on the defenders of Shirekeep and the ISAF was giving serious consideration to adapting its remaining UCAV force to drop re-purposed canisters packed with high-explosives.
This experience subsequently informed the strategic and operational doctrines of both the UDF and the reformed (i.e. purged) Imperial Forces in that the technologically sophisticated weapons systems began to be viewed as an exquisitely crafted and expensive blade of tremendous penetrating power that nonetheless blunted quickly through frequent use. For this reason it began to be felt that what was required was a second line of sufficient mass and firepower that would be less sophisticated, and for therefore more affordable, that could get the job done - through blunt object trauma if need be - once the enemy's own, exquisitely wrought, first line of defences had been sufficiently burnt through to provide an opening.
The desire to test this new theory against a representation of an avowedly unconventional opposing force gave rise to the series of military exercises known as Operation Long Haul and all the attendant controversies that ensued when neighbouring Minarboria became thoroughly alarmed.