The Jelkalan wars

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How it began

It is the year 793, Emperor Baesus II perished at the hands of smallpox following an extended illness, two men are contenders for the imperial throne; Baesus' cousin and close friend Olixent the Sharizian who has the support of the southern armies and vast arrays of Aserai and Geroain mercenaries and Bardas Macrobitus, the shrewd Governor of Uxkhal; with him are the armies of Jelkala and the west, as well as the Vlandian horsemen paid as tribute to the empire. The two men attempt to come to an agreement first, knowing that should they resort to fighting the empire could well fall apart, yet the talks fall apart and Olixent makes the first move by marching north towards Halmar.

The Halmarian garrison refuses him entry to the royal residence within, essentially refusing to acknowledge him as emperor. Olixent sets about besieging the city, only to find himself surrounded by Macrobitus' armies. The mercenaries quickly abandon their employer in favor of Bardas and Olixent's armies were massacred with their general. Bardas proclaimed himself King of the Calrads on his enemy's grave, and marched to the Imperial Capital of Lageta. There he passed laws, moving his capital to Halmar; for this was his childhood home, and the court and previous royal family there.

Bardas Macrobitus, although a cautious and suspecting man, never imagined that after eight years he would find himself cornered in the Imperial Bathhouse by servants armed with short swords - Bardas’ “loving” brother, Phocas, had disguised his guards as servants and mapurdered the emperor and his pregnant wife. Too many times had Bardas passed policies that favoured the increasingly wealthy nobles of the Empire, and the patricians and generals approached him. Phocas was a much more tactful man, he pleased all of his vassals and did not discriminate based on culture, having famously promoted a Sturgian commander to the rank of General.

Yet Bardas had close ties with the Vlandian King, his own wife was the sister of Amalareiks. Yet King Amal could not justifiably declare war on the empire, and thus sent his agents to occupied Battania instead. Here they told the Battanians of the sweetness that was freedom, and that if they fought against the Calrads they too would understand. And thus the Battanians rose up, in particular the Bargorii and the Gastranii clans.

The Battanian Wars

The Occupied Battanians were not a particularly warlike people, decades of Imperial pacification had made sure of this, but they knew how to fight, and fight they did. The Governor of Lower Battania, a certain Polonor Masces, quickly called back as many troops as he could before they were caught in their outposts and massacred. He raised his army at Ath Cafal, almost entirely town guards and bailiffmen, and went off to fight the Battanian uprising in the west only to find himself surrounded as eastern Battania rose up. The lightly armoured Battanians harassed the Calrads wherever they went, so much so that Masces tried to sue for peace. It was around this time that Phocas’ representatives arrived with professional troops. As the officials went on with their parley, the Battanians insulted and pelted stones and grass-balls at the Imperial soldiers guarding the envoy. Eventually the insults broke out into a scuffle, that turned into a sword fight, which then escalated into a skirmish, and then the main imperial army joined the battle. The Battanians were fierce fighters, however, and the Calrads were smashed and retreated on to a hill.

Here they endured several days of constant harassment until reinforcements from the south arrived and chased off the Battanians. The imperial army persued the Battanians and was subsequently ambushed and completely scattered. Phocas, at this point infuriated by the rebellion, sent a large army of several thousand professional soldiers under his second son, Nevos Macrobitus, to deal with the problem. Nevos smashed the Battanians in open battle and then went on to campaign for nearly two years against guerilla rebels, sacking, burning and absolutely ravaging the Battanian countryside.

Amalareiks, much like planned, found Battanian envoys in his court at Praven asking for help. Much too obliged to aid his friends and allies, he raised an army of hardened mounted nobles and their retinues and set out northwards to fight Nevos. Phocas, having received the declaration of war, is said to have laughed aloud. He sent his younger brother, Isaenos Macrobitus, at the head of one of the oldest armies in the empire, The Voidspawns, into Vlandia’s easternmost border with the empire - Suno.

Amalareiks found the Imperial army in Battania much harder to bring to the field than expected. The delay was long enough for reinforcements to arrive for Nevos, now with a bolstered army, Nevos engaged the Vlandian army. Amalareiks deployed on a hill, and with the imperials still preparing their lines, sent all his cavalry to smash into the unprepared ranks. The Calrads are the best infantrymen in Calradia, and quickly the Vlandian horsemen found themselves stuck in a melee they could not win. Amalareiks split his infantry in two groups, one of which was to approach the front of the imperial army, and the other was to fold around the left flank of the Calrads. Buckling under the weight of the constant attacks, the Calrads fell back and back until eventually breaking and fleeing. Nevos was taken prisoner soon after the battle, and sent back to Praven. All land in Battania previously under Calradic occupation was returned to free Battania, and the empire was forced to use borders they hadn’t touched for close to centuries. With the liberation of Battania came a close to the first part of the war, the Battanian Wars.

The Battle for the Suno Basin

As the war in Battania raged on, Isaenos and the Voidspawns marched through a largely unprotected Suno and lay waste to the lands surrounding the city before finally besieging the settlement itself. The Duke of Suno, Lintard Gausi, scrambled together a defence long enough for Amalareiks to emerge victorious over Nevos in the north. The Voidspawns still were a superior army, both in numbers and quality, and Isaenos swirled his army around and encamped at the base of a mountain. From here several major skirmishes erupted between the two sides, yet when Amalareiks managed to cut off the Imperial supply lines, Isaenos was forced into battle. For an entire week, the two armies clashed time after time with no clear victor until finally Amalareiks was heavily wounded by an arrow. It is here that Duke Gausi took over command of the Vlandians and managed to trick the Imperial cavalry on the left flank. After overwhelming the cavalrymen, Gausi sent a large portion of professionals through the gap and tore the Imperial lines apart as they were attacked from all sides. Isaenos is said to have fled with a five man escort, and then killed them all and disguised himself as a woman until the Vlandian army had moved on. He later made his way back to Halmar.

The Phoney Truce

At this point, Phocus had appointed a regency council to oversee the empire while he personally oversaw the war front. He met up with his brother Isaenos in Uxkhal and sent him to the new northern borders with Battania to conscript a new army and reclaim the lost lands while he granted leadership of an elite force of soldiers from the capital region to an Imperial General by the name of Derius Vophontes and sent him to Jelkala to hire an army of mercenaries. He himself went about attempting to treat with the Vlandians, and managed to get Amalareiks to sign a three year long peace treaty.

In the north, Isaenos had foolishly taken his brother’s orders literally and sucked entire villages dry of manpower as he brought a stupendously large army to bare against the measly Battanians. The already ravaged Battanian countryside only suffered further at the hands of Isaenos, who also conscripted local farmers into his army. Yet on militarily terms, he defeated any Battanian armies he came across - who were most of the time covering the retreat of the main army back to their capital at Sargoth. Isaenos camped his massive host outside the walls of Sargoth and starved the Battanian army within, yet the abuse suffered by the Battanian conscripts in his army by Imperial officers forced the northerners into action as a large mutiny broke out in the camp. For several days fighting ensued in the streets of dirt and houses of cloth, and the Imperials eventually emerged victorious. Any surviving Battanians were made an example of to the besieged army, as mounds of heads were piled up in front of the city and catapulted over daily. The Battanian general, Karsarix, bargained after three months of constant raids and starving for the life of him and anyone who could hide in the temples in the city. Isaenos agreed, and Karsarix fled the city with a small guard as the imperials broke their word and turned the ancient city to ruins. Next to none survived. Battania had been, at least in theory, pacified by the empire.

Meanwhile, Vophontes hired a small force of professional Rhodok and Imperial mercenaries in Jelkala. Nicknamed the Deriusites, the army made its way through mostly undefended lands of the Duke of Yalen. The mostly Calrad population of the Duchy treated the army as liberators and provided them with food and support, with many joining the Deriusites with weapons and armor to fight alongside their supposed kin. The Dukes of Yalen put together a measly army that scattered when fielded against the well equipped and professional Imperial force, and thus disgraced in the eyes of his family, the Duke of Yalen Carlon Gregoras was murdered by his son Regino, who swore an oath to Phocus and the empire. With these two unprecedented attacks on Vlandia and its allies during a time of peace angered many of the free peoples of Calradia, who began calling the emperor Phocus the Dishonored. Yet truth be told, from an imperial perspective, the rest of the world had yet to catch up to the cruelty of ruling a dominating superpower. Now the empire had two fronts from which it could outflank the Vlandians, and Amalareiks became desperate. He sent petitions across the world, to the Sturgians, the nomads of the east, to Balion and Jumne. Some agreed to aid the Vlandians, and others agreed to take their gold. Three large mercenary companies arrived in Praven, one from Sturgia and two from Balion, while a force of Jumnic fortune seekers arrived in Tihr. This gave the Vlandian King enough manpower to put together a hasty defence against the two lurking armies north and south of his kingdom.

The Battle of Yalen

The empire had fallen back on paying the mercenaries hired by Vophontes for the months leading up to a supposed clash. Many of them instead fled to Amalareiks’ army, which was also at this point largely professional. The Deriusites were unprepared for the volume of the Vlandian army, expecting another army of poorly trained levies. The two armies met outside the walls of Yalen, and for several days the two armies clashed in indecisive cavalry engagements in the Great Plains outside of the city. Unable to beat the more mobile and better trained veterans of the empire, the Vlandian knights lost most of the skirmishes. Eventually Amalareiks decided to push his numerical advantage and deny the Calrads a chance to continue chipping at his army.

Vophontes’ army was arrayed in two lines, in the front were the professional Geroian and Jelkalan infantrymen and behind them the bulk of the local volunteers and any recruits they had gathered. On the other hand, Amalareiks’ largely Balish army had formed a shield wall. This proved a problem for Vophontes, yet the veteran general wasn’t about to let foreign barbarians defeat him. He ordered his first line to engage the Vlandian shield wall, while he left his cousin Phulon, in charge of keeping the main line in order while he took his best men, the cavalry, and personally led them through a gap in the Vlandian line against Amalareiks. The Vlandian King saw this, and led his own Royal Guard against Vophontes, and the two forces clashed. Naturally, the Calrad cavalry was more numerous and better trained than their Vlandian counterparts. It was only when a knight by the name of Eggimund threw a javelin and pinned Vophontes, killing him, the Calrad cavalry quickly broke through what remained of Amalareiks’ guard and fled the battlefield despite being able to turn and end the war there and then. Phulon, now in-charge of the army, saw the cavalry run and thought his cousin was fleeing. He himself took a handful of men and fled while the infantry was left to its own fate, for the rest of the day and much of the night the Calradic army fought a retreating manoeuvre until finally being overwhelmed and slaughtered to the last man. Yalen went back into Vlandian control.

The Final Campaigns

Isaenos, having heard of that the Vlandian army had went southwards, took his vast host and invaded the ancient Vlandian territories of Tihr. His army was constantly bogged down by skirmishes and ambushed launched by the locals and the Duke of Tihr. He eventually reached the large stone walls of the city, and so frightened was the Duke that he went so far as to kneel before the emperor’s brother and invite him and his top officers to a feast. Isaenos, being a fool like always, saw this for what the Vlandian made it appear. Isaenos took a small force of five hundred men into the city as his guard, and, unsurprisingly, found himself quickly overwhelmed by armed men in the duke’s palace. Isaenos fought through the streets with his men until he reached the walls, where he blew a horn throughout the night while trapped in a tower with a hundred men. It was only until one of the smaller officers in the camp heard the horn for what it was that Isaenos’ army assaulted the city to rescue him. After several hours, the Emperor’s brother was saved and the walls breached. The city fell within the night, and the Duke fled the city to one of his estates in the north of the Duchy.

Isaenos found out soon after that Vophontes had been defeated in the south, and then awaited for his brother to act. Phocus rallied the empire’s best armies, and personally led the archaic Diath’s Chosen into an excursion against the Vlandians - He merged the three finest forces on the earth, Diath's Chosen, the Rovian Guard and the Blades of the Sun. These extremely well trained veterans of war numbered to 45,000 soldiers against all of the "Free World" and its armies under Amalareiks, who led an army numbering 38,000. Phocus' three generals, Zenon Carris of the Rovian Guard, Orestes Poutsoglifteis of the Blades of the Sun and finally Nestor Vantos of Diath's Chosen, all agreed on one unified plan of invasion; Isaenos would push his advantage from the north down and into the heart of Vlandia, he would strike Suno from where they least expected an enemy army to be while Phocus' army split into three columns - one to go through Jelkala and pick up any survivors from Vophontes, this army would take the town of Veluca and then the city of Yalen before marching north and into the Vlandian heartlands to reach Praven. The second column under the emperor would march straight ahead from Dhirim to Suno and meet up with Isaenos' army, once Suno fell they would march westwards for Praven and besiege the Vlandian capital. The third column was to march ahead of Phocus' army and meet Amalareiks in battle. The plan was flawless...

But things don't go to plan when Isaenos Philippos Macrobitus is involved in it. Isaenos' rag tag group of farmers hardened by the Battanian Wars began to starve in Tihr, so much so that Isaenos decided to divert his route and head straight for the open plains of Praven to find food instead of marching through the Tihrite Mountains for weeks to reach Suno. Just as the southern column smashed the Velucan and Yalenite garrisons and reached Praven, it found it was much too empty for a place in which the Free World's armies were amassing. Isaenos was supposed to go to Suno so as to keep Amal from escaping the clutches of the southern army which was to pin him down in Praven. Amalareiks found the third column which was marching ahead of Phocus' army, the column numbered around 10,000 men - it was the Rovian Guard.

The Imperials do not talk much of the day that the ancient Rovus the Great's army was defeated. Outnumbered 4:1, the Rovian Guard under Zenon Carris held a small fortified ruin called in those days Garasanix, but after the battle renamed Lyindah, from old Vlandian, meaning Field of Sorrow. For three days the Rovian Guard held off the waves of barbarians, yet the fort fell and the survivors either executed or maimed and sent back to Phocus. With such a large portion of his veteran army gone, Phocus was infuriated. Once Suno fell to the Empire, Phocus systematically sacked the city without remorse. Half the population of the city and its hinterlands was slain while the remaining half was deported into slavery in the eastern markets of the empire. Phocus sent word to Isaenos and Orestes to lead their armies east and try and pin down Amalareiks while he led Diath's Chosen. Many scholars say this is the day the empire overstepped its bounds and cast its die as a dying superpower.

The Battle of Jelkala

Diagram of the Battle of Jelkala

The Vlandians, despite their earlier victory, were still heavily outnumbered - The Imperial army numbered some 56,000 against their now depleted 34,000. Amalareiks deployed his army on a hill, planning on defending. The hill was flanked to the right by a large and un-mountable cliff edge and to the left by forestry, forcing the empire to attack frontally. A standoff ensued, which was eventually broken by an assault by the imperial army. On the first day, the battle lasted several hours with no clear victor. The same occurred on the second day, and the assault was led by Poutsoglifteis, who sought to end the war in one swift move...

"It is said that Orestes Poutsoglifteis was, among other things, a genius in battle tactics. This is evident by his outsmarting of the Karkhat tribes in the steppes and his usage of poorly prepared conscripts to defeat the much superior troops of the uprising in Geroia. Yet this trait is not something that was displayed in the Battle of Praven, at least such is said by the many common and un-studied men of the empire. I think, contrary to common belief, that Poutsoglifteis sought to end the war in a quick stroke of a blade - for all know that if Amalareiks fell, the badly maintained troops of the Vlandian barbarians would have crumbled and collapsed. Having talked to many who were in the heat of battle when Poutsoglifteis led his personal guard, made up of the finest men of the Blades of the Sun. They crashed into Amalareiks' dismounted noble guard, I believe the term they use is Royal Gasinds. Among these men were the likes of Liutprand Pertingi, Alaric Marasingi and Agelmund Letinn. The Blades of the Sun fought with the strength of the Maker, and many men good men died on either side until Orestes Poutsoglifteis reached the King of Vlandia. Orestes struck two blows onto the King, supposedly one broke the Vlandian's sword in half and the other dug into the king's helmet before Liutprand Pertingi and another, from what I have been told his brother Unichis, pounced upon Poutsoglifteis. It is here that both of my witnesses stumble in their recalling, while previously they had told of the bravery the empire fought with, it is possible that what ensued must have been much too hard for them to recall. Regardless, Poutsoglifteis was slain, and the Imperials withdrew for the day..." - From Barabanos Vieglos' History of the Empire's Wars.

The third day was much more chaotic and hectic, many of the Vlandian and Imperial commanders were wounded. It is here that Nestor Vantos suggested to the Emperor that he try and sue for peace else the Empire would be doomed to lose all it's wars in the future. Phocus ignored Vantos, and on the fourth day engaged in the fighting himself in an attempt to boost morale. When the emperor engaged, all the focus was on fighting in the front lines. A certain Hildeoc Vermundingi, later being granted the Duchy of Praven for his heroic act, led the Vlandian cavalry out and around the Vlandian shieldwall formation and fought off any Imperial horsemen that were looming around the rear of the fighting. He then proceeded to charge again and again into the back of the Imperial lines, a classic Hammer & Anvil. Much of the Imperial army fled at this moment, and the empire sustained many casualties. The next morning, Phocus met in person with Amalareiks, and the war was concluded in a peace treaty which handed over Jelkala to the Kingdom of Vlandia, while the Empire received full dominion over Battania, parts of Tihr Duchy and the border between the two was rearranged to just after the Town of Burglen. The war had ended, and the stage had been reset for a new war to come in the next few decades, this time to the east...

Written by Warwick