Cultural Analogues: Lombards, Franks, Visigoths
Ruler: Rex Amalareiks I
270-320 AF: The Life of Wilund the Bold
The Vlandian Chronicle begins with the birth of Wilund the Bold, son of Hrosith, in the far-off isle of Aska. The Chronicle takes down precious little on Wilund’s boyhood, noting only that he’d earned ill repute amongst his kinsmen for mischief and devilry. It’s little surprise, therefore, that as a young man, says the Chronicle, Wilund had already made an enemy of the isle’s jarl. And so he bided as an outlaw in Aska’s hills for some time, until with his companions he made for Calradia, where for many years they sailed the country’s coasts, looting and plundering whatever settlements Wilund judged worthy of such. Against Wilund, the Emperor sent a great many soldiers, and trounced them all did he, so that when he came ashore before the fort of Gescem, called now “Gism,” he found no warriors on its ramparts. Wilund and his men were weary of their lives as rovers, and keen to finally settle down. Fertile Gism, with its many miles of wheatfields, must’ve looked especially inviting. And so, Wilund declared the fort and its lands his, and his subjects and companions knew him henceforth as Count Wilund. Word quickly spread of Wilund’s bold proclamation of rulership. Many of his fellow pirates shared his desire for an easy life ashore, and Wilund’s army swelled with raider outfits who’d pledged themselves to his banner.
The Siege of Pravend
The emperor, whom the chronicle names Konstanz I (Constannes), was willing to begrudge a few piddling defeats against some Jumnish pirates - none dared make their homes on Calradia’s shores lest to fight their kinsman as the emperor’s sworn swords. The emperor would not, however, brook an affront so grievous as the seizure of his lands. By the time the emperor had marshaled his warriors for a battle with these invaders, though, Wilund had already marched his followers down the Bezan Coast, where he laid siege to the city of Pravend.
Wilund’s army was in no shape to take on Pravend in a traditional siege. Wilund found his new home in Gism packed with all manner of traps, designed to hamper or slow down besieging foes. Wilund judged that if Gism was as well-equipped as it was to bring an army’s siege to naught, proud old Pravend must not only be such, but more so. Of course, on top of its defenses, in Pravend was a capable garrison - Wilund pictured his men scaling the city’s walls with ladders, only to find themselves hacked to pieces by an impenetrable wall of mailed men which had come together around the top rung. Wilund imagined, however, if something was done to end the defenders’ vigil for a brief moment, they could mount their assault unopposed. A fire, he predicted, would call for the attention of all the city’s inhabitants were it big enough. And so, Wilund himself, joined by some of his bravest, entered the city in a captured caravan, and under the cover of night, set fire to the city, availing themselves of some pitch they found in the city’s market. Just as Wilund had envisioned, the city’s warriors left their posts to the fight the flames. It was then all Wilund’s men left their camp, throwing ladders over the walls and rallying on the other side of the city’s walls. The city fell swiftly to Wilund and his men, who set forth down the coast and into the Corvwin Peninsula, and routed the Peninsula’s armies at the Battle of Darasario. Wilund, though, was far from satisfied, and, eager to see another city added to his burgeoning kingdom, marched his men down the ancient Imperial road, the Sutzen Way, at whose end Wilund would find the prosperous city of Suno.
Battle of Lyindah
Wilund and his men were camped outside the hamlet of Lyindah, though, when at dusk he was roused from his sleep by his servants. Imperials, they told him, had assailed sentries posted some distance ahead. Wilund ordered all the camp awoken and dressed for battle. By the time this was done, though, a 5000 strong Imperial army had already formed ranks on the fields before the camp. Wilund hastily assembled on the opposite side of the field, who locked shields and awaited the Imperials’ next move. The Vlandians, however, had not many skirmishers nor archers, so that when the Imperials sent against Wilund’s shield wall javelineers and rangers, all Wilund’s men could do was slowly plod up the field in formation. For so long had Imperial skirmishers harassed Wilund’s shield wall that his entire left flank broke ranks and chased them back to Imperial lines, before making their way back to Wilund’s shieldwall cheering and hollering. It was then, however, when 1000 Imperial horsemen thundered out of the thicket behind Lyindah, all mantled in chainmail with spearshafts between their fingers. At the head was none other than Emperor Konstanz, whom all Vlandians thereafter knew as Konstanz the Sharp. Wilund, who could only watch from behind what remained of his shield wall, was prostrate with shock.
Before long, however, Wilund’s shock turned to admiration, and he swore that were his kingdom to survive this battle, all its greatest warriors shall be horsemen. The imperial charge swept right through those of Wilund’s men who’d already been scattered by the skirmishers, and in a flash had already crashed into Wilund’s shieldwall. Wilund’s men, most of them pirates and brigands whose only field experience was in boarding actions and coastal raids, were hardly equipped for a charge from the Empire’s famous cataphracts. Within moments, those few of Wilund’s men who weren’t slaughtered had already taken to their heels. Seeing this, Wilund tore off his armor and dropped his sword, mounting a fallen Imperial’s pony with the aim of finding Konstanz on the field, meeting the emperor after he’d dismounted his own stead for a drink. Wilund, he told the emperor, asked that the surviving Jumnish be spared, and welcomed any condition that might see this done. Konstanz, impressed with Wilund’s boldness and mindful of his men’s skill at arms, told Wilund that were he to pledge his fealty to him, he could keep his lands. And so on the fields of Lyindah, Wilund was anointed Count of the Bezan Coast according with Calradic rites, before swearing lifelong fidelity to the Emperor of Calradia.
And so, Wilund was led to the river Lvenn. Konstanz had bid his vassal forswear the Gods of his forebears and accept the one god of Calradia, the Maker. In a ceremony overseen by the emperor himself, Wilund was baptised in the river at the ford of Nemeja. That same day, Wilund was betrothed to Gizeld, the youngest daughter of Konstanz the Wise - on the grounds thereof, all following Vlandians counts and kings boasted blood from Calradia’s imperial line. Wilund made for Pravend, upon whose shores he convoked the first and last folksmoot in Vlandia. All of Wilund’s men were called together on the shores outside the town. Here, Wilund imparted to his men how he’d taken up the faith of their former foes, and invited them all to do the same. The Vlandian Chronicle records that there were none who did not follow Wilund’s example, and all were baptised along Praven’s shores in the Bay of Azscad, which today’s Vlandians know as Azgad. Wilund parceled out the Bezan Coast among his chieftains and bravest followers, who, taking after Wilund, married Calradic girls. Wilund’s reign as Duke of the Bezan Coast was marked largely by his own campaigns against his kinsman, who yet pillaged the Bezan Coast. Before the end of his reign, the Bezan Coast’s Jumnish nobility came to be known as Vlandians, taking their name from Wilund, whose Calradic name was “Valandion” - with time, the term came to include their subjects, who’d adopted many of the mores and lifeways of their rulers. Perhaps the most significant happening of Wilund’s reign was, in its seventh year, he outfitted all his bodyguards with horses. Because nearly all his vassals followed suit, it’s thought that here was born Vlandia’s famous cavalrymen.
320-340 AF: The Reign of Count Hrosith
Wilund would pass on in his thirtieth year on the throne. His successor was his eldest son Count Hrosith. Wise but unambitious, Hrosith never strove after more than administering his county’s laws as his father laid them down. Count Hrosith enjoyed a peaceful, although comparatively unexceptional reign. Well known was Hrosith’s campaigns with the emperor on the emperor’s eastern frontiers, where Vlandian cavalry brooked its first test - against the notorious Asserai horse archers. Also important was Hrosith’s shedding the title, “Count of the Bezan Coast.” From then on, his line’s domains were known as “Vlandia.” Also worthy of note was the Battle of Azgad, where Hrosith fought the last battle against the Jumnish in Vlandia’s history.
An infected arrow wound sent Hrosith to the hereafter in the twentieth year of his reign. Hrosith’s successor was the lionized Derthold, whom most Vlandians remember as Derthold the Brave. Derthold’s reign was not shaping up to be especially remarkable. Derthold, raised away from Pravend in the Calradian capital, like his predecessor was not desirous of more than a stable kingdom ruled in harmony with Wilund’s Vlandian Law. It seemed as if the Vlandians had somewhere in their short history left behind the fierceness and restlessness to which the County of Vlandia owed its existence. Ever since Vlandia’s shores had been rid of raiders and pirates and the Asserai were driven from the Empire’s borders, there’d been little to test the Vlandian people’s skill at arms. There were some in Count Derthold’s court that contended if the king could not soon find a nation with which his subjects could wage war, soon will the Vlandians have to mourn the loss of their fighting spirit. Perhaps there was no better a time, then, for news to arrive in Count Derthold’s that there was grounds for yet another war with the Calradic Empire. Scholars at the abbey of Kermal had uncovered evidence that before Konstanz the Sharp had gone the way of all flesh, he’d willed that the imperial province of Galend be turned over to the Count of Vlandia.
This, however, had never been done. Hearing this, Derthold asked his court for the right course of action. They agreed this warranted nothing less than war. And so, in the fifth year of his reign, Derthold called to arms his vassals, and without warning sent them all against one or another of the Empire’s forts along the Lvenn. Derthold himself laid siege to the mightiest of these, the ancient hillfort of Meroc. The Empire, who could hardly begrudge ninety swords for even proud old Meroc, was still on the mend following its war with the Sturgians further north - doubtless, they hardly bargained for a war anywhere they judged ably defended by their Vlandian vassals. The Lvenn’s Imperial forts were thus in no shape to stand a siege - all either capitulated without a fight or were deserted by their garrisons, who fled for Yalen.
After seizing the banks of the Lvenn, Derthold came together with his vassals for a council of war. It was decided Derthold’s army would surge over southern Rhodokia in a three-pronged assault. Aistulf, Baron of Tevarin, would occupy the highlands southwest of the Lvenn, where he’d delay the advance of responding Imperial armies from the province of Jaculan. Raditchs, Baron of Azgad, would raid around the border between Jaculen and Galend, his aim being to kindle panic among Imperial citizens besides turning the Emperor’s attention away from actions further west. Derthold would lead the largest host towards Yalen - besides capturing the largest city in the province, a successful investment of the city was all Derthold needed to grind the flow of men and resources into the region to a halt. Numerous smaller hosts and warbands were sent out, charged with scanning ahead of the main body of troops, garrisoning captured forts, and the like - these totaled at least a quarter of the Vlandian army’s combined strength.
The Siege of Yalen
The old Imperial stronghold of Yalen stood atop one of the tallest hills in the province, with two of its walls just feet from seaside cliffs. Girdling the keep were limestone walls forty feet high and fifteen feet thick, which each stretched for half a mile. Its garrison was the largest in the province, and had just been augmented by Imperials from the Lvenn. Truly, besieging the place would be a knackering job. This was especially so for Derthold’s Vlandians, who apart from the Count’s elite horsemen, were comprised mainly of peasant levies who hadn't a clue what a pitched battle looked like. Derthold’s 14,000 man army also only outnumbered his foes 3 -1 - good odds in any engagement that isn’t a siege. Yalen’s garrison must’ve then been very pleased to see Derthold’s entire host formed up in the glen below the castle - with these variables, Derthold could only fail in an assault on the castle.
Derthold, however, did not launch his men headlong against Yalen as its garrison expected, instead leisurely marching them through the three small fishing hamlets on either side of Yalen, around which they spent the next hour pitching camp. Derthold aimed to wage a war of attrition, which from here on would be the among the most pervasive tactics in Vlandian warfare. And so, for four months Derthold and his men did little else but wait in the vale below Yalen. Yalen’s garrison, meanwhile, hemmed in on all sides by Vlandians, also hadn’t much to do but watch their supplies dwindle. Within three months, Yalen’s Imperials were out of water and nearly out of food. They’d been starving for two weeks when the garrison’s captain, whom the Chronicle names as Vincsenz, finally turned over the city to Derthold on the condition that he vouchsafe their safety on a march across the provincial border, east to Jaculan. Derthold assented to these terms. Having achieved the war’s aims in essentially one lateral move, Derthold was ready to call a truce and head home, but elected to link up with Baron Aistulf’s host further north before doing anything else.
Battle of Carowel Pass
Baron Aistulf’s occupation of the Galend highlands had thus-far been perhaps the most uneventful theatre of Count Derthold’s war with the Empire. Derthold’s prediction that Imperial succors would arrive from Jaculan never came to pass, the province’s administration steeling for their own invasion, a decision in part called forth by the guerilla war Baron Raditchs’ despoiling the river settlements along the Lvenn. Baron Aistulf found hardly a soul on his march Galend’s glens, the province’s Highlanders all having fled to forests and furthest hills on hearing of the Vlandian host. Aistulf as a result had to bear very little resistance in taking possession of the land’s numerous ancient ringforts, where the Highland tribes still made their home. Barring the company of their comrades, however, Aistulf’s Vlandians spent the occupation in near thorough solitude, in the foreign landscape of Galend’s highlands. Aistulf and his 2000 men were thus more than gladdened to hear they’d been sent for down in Yalen, where they’d unite with the host of their king. Aistulf was making his way through Carowel Pass, south of the fort at Mt. Mar Has, when 2000 blooded Highlander clansmen pounced on either side of the column. Aistulf’s Vlandians, no thanks to their three months of seclusion, absolutely stunned, and before long panic reigned in Aistulf’s host. Wedged between two determined Highlander thrusts made escape impossible spare for those few at the column’s front and rear, and even most of them were mowed down moments later by slingers and javelineers. Baron Aistulf was among the first slain, skewered atop his horse by the highlander chieftain Culchaoir, who then repeated the feat with five of the baron’s mounted bodyguards. The Chronicle reports only forty men made it Yalen to tell Baron Derthold of what’d happened to their fellows at Carowel Pass.
News of the Carowel Pass massacre sent Count Derthold into a legendary rage - so wroth was he, that it’s said he spent half day wreaking havoc in Yalen’s halls. As soon as his temper settled, Count Derthold called together all those vassals with him in Yalen for a council of war. In equal measure heartsore and resentful over the tragedy at Carowel Pass, Derthold’s lieutenants resolved to continue their war against the Empire - Carowel Pass had made the war a question of honor. Every man of highborn stock with the count’s host lost a relative or friend at the battle - all couldn’t be keener to avenge them. However, every Vlandian who’d been reared with a noble’s education had heard tales of the highlanders’ century-long resistance to Imperial rule, and agreed that were they to ever pacify the Highlanders, it’d have to be after their war with the Empire. After all, their quarrel was as much with the Highlanders as with the Imperials, Carowel Pass being a show of the peoples’ fealty to the Calradic Empire. Derthold’s host in Yalen, though, while in fine fettle, was simply no good as a conquering army - not at this stage of the war, after the Empire’s had three months to compose themselves. Count Derthold, on the grounds thereof, decided it would be prudent that this next phase of the war be waged from a defensive posture. His host would await in Yalen for an Imperial army sent to reclaim the city. Half of it would garrison Yalen proper, which he’d made his headquarters. The rest would be parceled out for one or another of the surrounding towns and forts, with larger warbands being posted to strategic locations along the margins of the perimeter. Those Vlandians not in Yalen were sent across the provincial border into Jaculan, like Aistulf with the end of diverting the emperor’s attention away from Yalen, mayhaps winning some more ground for the County in the act - they’d of course be steering clear of the highlands.
It cannot be said Emperor Tarquin wasn’t the least bit shocked by the Vlandians’ betrayal. After his thorough hammering of the Sturgians across the Empire’s northern border, though, there was little question the emperor was more than capable of setting his hand to bringing the Vlandians to their knees. For three months, Tarquin listened to his advisors beseech him without break to lead an army from Halmar to Yalen and finally teach Derthold the same lesson he taught Vargan Rullis. The emperor’s prime concern, however, remained preparing his eastern provinces for the looming threat of a massive invasion from the Asserai. Tarquin, notwithstanding the Empire’s embarrassing lack of success in Galend, was confident his governor in Jaculan, Torvus, could manage the Vlandians’ advance fine without his emperor. After all, even without crossing the Imperial border, the terrible Asserai had already managed to sent the Empire into a panic - most Imperial citizens were plenty assured, however, their Vlandian rebellion would end as soon as Derthold crossed the border into Jaculan if it didn’t wear itself thin before then. When the emperor heard, however, that not only was Derthold fitting out Yalen for an Imperial invasion but had also sent a formidable host into Jaculan, he knew the time for action had shown. Tarquin left Halmar with 3000 Imperial legionnaires, all seasoned by the last decade’s war with the Sturgians besides unnumbered bandit crackdowns and tribal revolts.
Tarquin forced marched his men to the Empire’s border and through the friendly Duchy of Uxkhal, making it to the eastern edge of Galend’s border in squarely four days. There, Tarquin ordered his men make camp and sent for the area’s highland chieftains, who’d join his army and guide the Imperials through the Highland’s rough terrain. Arriving hardly two days later were 1200 Highlander warriors, many of whom veterans of the battle at Carowel Pass, besides 900 loyal Imperial militiamen gathered together on the Highlanders’ journey there. After five days of rest, Culchaoir, the hero who at Carowel Pass had slain Baron Aistulf, led Tarquin and his army through Galend’s hills and mountains until coming upon the Vlandian-occupied fort of Slytics. There, at dawn, Tarquin formed up his men before the fort’s gates. Tarquin himself rode alone to the walls where he entreated the sentries for an audience with their captain. Before long, the fort’s leader, Lord Chilfric, had appeared on Slytics’ walls, where he cooly asked the emperor of his business. Tarquin answered that the fort’s garrison had until the day’s end to retire from Slytics, lest he’d have to lay siege. Chilfric responded that he’d no qualms with his men departing the fort, but that he himself had no choice but to remain and defend it. Tarquin told the lord he was free to do as he wished. Chilfric gathered his ninety men in the fort’s courtyard, where they were led outside onto Yalen - Tarquin sent no one to harry their advance. Chilfric, however, stood in the threshold, sword in hand. Emperor Tarquin, impressed with the Vlandian’s courage, sent to occupy the fort twenty men armed with wood staffs. And so the Siege of Slytic had begun - Lord Chilfric valiantly defended the gate alone, wounding six of his foes before being brought to the ground. Chilfric spent the campaign an Imperial prisoner - the Chronicle notes how impressed the Imperials were with the lord’s virtue and affability. Count Derthold heard three days later of the Emperor’s taking of Slytics. Fearing the Emperor was clearing the way for a larger invading army, besides that too much inaction will buy Tarquin time to rally local volunteers, Derthold set out with 12000 of his 14000 men to meet the Emperor’s advance.
Battle of Slytics
Slytics was one of many old, wood forts built following the Empire’s occupation of the area centuries ago, although its role had long been that of an administrative center and trading post. Its lumber walls were just over six feet tall, and its barracks could barely sleep 400 men. Tarquin, of course, had no plans of facing Derthold within the fort - the emperor marshaled his men to meet Derthold’s column five miles away. Outnumbered well over 2-1, Tarquin of course would not be facing Derthold’s host in an ordinary field battle. This would be an ambush. At the head of Derthold’s column were all his army’s nobles and mounted bodyguards - Tarquin led 200 elite Imperial cataphracts head-on into the vanguard, calling a retreat after a brief, bloody scrap. Derthold, of course gave chase, and Tarquin led them right into the sights of 400 mounted archers, who rained hell on the stampeding Vlandians before flying back with Tarquin and his cataphracts into a nearby forest. Derthold’s cavalry followed on the heels of Tarquin’s for a mile before the emperor turned and led his horsemen between two hills, each mantled in a dense thicket. Waiting on either side of the hill were 1500 Imperial legionnaires. Joining them were as many highlanders and imperial militiamen, all kitted out bows, slings, and javelins. In an episode more than similar to the disaster at Carowel Pass, Derthold steered his horsemen between the two hills, only for them to pounced upon by Tarquin’s veterans. Those who weren’t perforated on their horses were blasted off them by a torrent of stones, arrows, and javelins. Derthold had thankfully dismounted as soon as he spotted men behind the trees, before charging alone into the tide of Imperials storming down the hill. The Chronicle reports the Emperor slew thirty men in the fray, among them two of Emperor Tarquin’s very own sons, both of whose heads he opened with his sword. The Count, however, paid for his reckless drive. The reign of Count Derthold the Brave ended at the Battle of Slytics, when a Highlander’s arrow felled the heroic count.
Written by Wlodoviec