The Reconquest of The Empress' Gift

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Final Peace

The Neverwar had ended years ago, but still the soldiers of the Empress’ army remained encamped in Brittlestone Loch. Vokaya still reeled from the conflicts that raged through its lands, and previous to now had been utterly unable to make a real attempt to dislodge the Imperial forces buried at its heart. Now, however, after years of peace with the Imperial factions, it was time to remove the last threat still aimed at the Vokayan Heartland.

Merik’s Revenge

Merik Serendi had been very careful to ensure that not only did the Gift never fully establish as its own country, it also was never able to be evacuated southward by either Imperial faction. Between diplomatic tricks and direct sabotage, all communication southward had been prevented.

The obvious reason for this was that the Rampart Line had not been repaired, and still had significant weak points where a determined force could enter Vokaya. If the soldiers of the Gift were to march on Vokaya alongside another force, it was unknown whether or not they could be stopped.

More insidious rumors claimed that Merik himself despised the Imperial soldiers that had marched into his realm at the Empress’ beck and call, and his thirst for vengeance demanded that they be annihilated without remorse.

Brittlestone’s Defenses

It had not been possible to achieve such a victory before, however. The warriors of the Gift were some of the most experienced, and they were commanded by the capable Lord Reinhard Utenberg. Lord Utenberg had instructed the soldiers to fortify all the major entrances to Brittlestone Loch, and had installed himself as military dictator of the valley and all of its inhabitants.

The inhabitants themselves posed something of a problem. Many had been killed when the Empress looted the region on the way towards what would become the Black Cage, but when Lord Utenberg had arrived, he had attempted to rebuild much of what had been destroyed. Over the years, Reinhard worked alongside the local population to construct an interim government that saw elves and humans side by side. Equality was never really achieved, but rather than see the Imperial presence as an insufferable tyranny, the people of Brittlestone Loch began to accept the soldier’s presence more and more as time went on. Indeed, without the Imperial efforts to restore the great valley, it is unlikely it would have recovered at all.

Beyond simple infrastructure, the people of Brittlestone began to fuse into a single culture, even resulting in some inter-marriages between Imperials and Vokayans, and a curious mixing of traditions and beliefs. Year by year, the Empress’ Gift was closer and closer to becoming a sustainable country in its own right. As a result of this, the people were unlikely to rebel, and might even fight alongside their captors.

Tipping the Scales

Without help, the Gift would never be destroyed. But, with peace between Vokaya and the southern empires well-established, Merik turned his resources to destroying the Gift, once and for all. Not only was the slow training programs of the Vokayan military beginning to bear fruit, Merik had a large surplus of funds still left over from the Golden Age; as it turned out, as much as the Neverwar was a devastating war, it had not been a very expensive one for Vokaya.

Listed Companies were not well-liked in Vokaya. Their beliefs were seen as barbaric, and they frequently used slave-soldiers called Savaski that were illegal under Vokayan law. While Vokayan nobility made use of them on numerous occasions, the government itself had not done so since the completion of the Rampart Line some three hundred years ago. Now, however, Merik chose to ignore that practice.

Over the protests of many powerful nobles and the High Cleric of the Vokayan Sept, Merik purchased the use of the entirety of the Silver Talons: one of the largest and most powerful Listed Companies in Atur. It was a force so large and diverse that they had not been bought as a single unit in living memory. A little over ten thousand soldiers were shipped northward across the Sea of Storms, escorted by the mighty Vokayan navy to ensure there was no trouble. When they arrived in Everlight, they met up with another eight thousand Vokayan Stratosi, and nearly seven hundred Magi. In mid June, this force of around 19,000 soldiers set out on the cloud roads towards Brittlestone Loch.

The Reconquest of the Gift

The fighting began on the first of July, and continued until well into winter. The Imperial forces outnumbered the Vokayans, but many of them had set their weapons aside years ago, and were unprepared when the great host fell upon them. Lord Utenberg did his best, and he made no mistakes, but in the end the Vokayan force was just too great. Fort after fort fell to the invaders, and despite his best efforts the capital city of Brittlestone was captured. From there, it was a losing battle, and they only continued to fight because Merik would not accept their surrender.

At least, not until nearly the very end. During the course of the fighting, there was no quarter given to any who raised arms against the Vokayans, but it was clear that a number of the “Imperial” combatants were, in fact, elven. In the later stages of the conflict, the number of elves fighting grew to the point where whole families from the Gift were raising arms against the attackers, and the morale of the Vokayan military elements in the invasion force was crippling low from having to slaughter their own kin. After much disagreement amongst Merik’s command staff (and adopted daughter), he capitulated and delivered the last of the defending armies terms of surrender.

Aftermath

Of the one hundred thousand people living in the Empress’ Gift, nearly forty thousand had been killed in the fighting, along with five thousand of the mixed force Merik had brought with him. The remaining seven thousand elves and humans that had taken up arms at Lord Utenberg’s call surrendered in bits and pieces over the course of that winter, and with the last of the forts captured Merik declared the entire war over.

The terms offered to the people of Brittlestone were surprisingly fair, putting to question the rumors that Merik had been in it purely for revenge; then again, many argue that it was only through the actions of Princess Natalya that they were spared at all, and that the favorable terms were only at her insistence. Regardless, they were offered full pardon, and the Imperial soldiers that wished to could begin testing for partial Vokayan citizenship. The ones that did not want to remain in Vokaya were free to go home, provided their travel fees were paid before they left. These “fees” were obviously a ransom, but as ransoms go the price was very reasonable.

As for Reinhard Utenberg, his lands had been reclaimed by the Blessed Imperium years ago, and he had little desire to return to find if his wife was still alive; after all, he now had a second wife, and a young son with a daughter on the way. Instead, he took the name Reinhard Misko (his wife’s name), became a noble courtier, and entered the Vokayan military academies in Cascade.

In the end, fewer than two thousand Imperial veterans returned home to the south, and the bounty on non-citizen humans in Vokaya was finally revoked. It was, as rarely happens in war, a victory for all the survivors. But then something really interesting happened.

The Traitor Company

Some seven thousand of the Silver Talons were still in Vokaya. When the spring thaws came and they made to return home, many did not wish to. Even the command staff preferred Everlight to Deniz Izle. So, an arrangement was made with the Serendi Rex for them to remain active and on-contract as a defensive agency in Vokaya, for dramatically reduced rates compared to the previous season.

A year later, the situation had only worsened. The Silver Talons were visited by numerous executors for Aturan Merchant Lords, imploring them to return, to no avail. Eventually even members of the Office of the Sultanate inquired as to when they would be returning to fulfil traditional contracts in the homeland. Again, the Silver Talons refused.

Two years of this, and a messenger from the Master of Lists announced that if they did not relocate to Aturan soil and accept contracts from Aturan Merchant Lords, they would be declared Disgraced, and their lists would be forever tainted. At this, finally, the commanders of the Silver Talons were compelled to action, and made motions to return home. However, at this point, more than half their men were unmoved by such threats, and they refused to return. Especially, as it turned out, the Savaski, who’s slave status had been little more than a technicality for the last three years and were not eager to leap back into irons. When the remainder of the Silver Talons threatened to force them to return, Merik bought the slaves who wished to remain, and any of the regulars who wanted to stay behind were protected from reprisal.

It was nearly enough for the Silver Talons to act with violence, but in the end the negotiations were completed and the Talons returned to Atur, with only a fifth of the force they had set out with. The rest became the backbone of Serendi House Guard, under the direct command of Merik Serendi and his descendants.

The Reconquest of The Empress' Gift

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