Treaty of Settisberg

1214 AT

The Battle of Frozen Gates
and the End of the Neverwar

“For centuries the Rampart Line, the legacy of the Serendi, has stood resolute against Imperial invasions, be they Marchers, Riverlanders, or Steppesmen. Time and time again, the Holy Falcon Empire was dashed against the cold stones of the Rampart, torn apart by spells, steel, and mountain winds. Only once, one time, in four hundred years, has someone breached one of the mighty fortresses, and later that year they declared her a god. But then, even despite all of that, the Holy Falcon Empire decided they’d give it another go.”

In the late fall of 1214, the Council of Regents in the Holy Falcon Empire decided that their brethren in the Empress’ Gift must be saved from Vokaya’s clutches, and brought to bear against the rebellious factions propagating through the Imperial Plains. This they did not accomplish.

The Council’s Decisions

The Holy Falcon Empire was not in a very good position. They had spent the last four years securing the allegiances of the various nobles in Eastmarch and the Totenwald, and had mostly succeeded. They had not, however, managed to entice Marshal-Regent Otto von Hauptstadt into legitimizing their rule, which undermined their authority at every turn.

Desperate for the kind of power it would require to unite the Empire under them, the Council of Regents decided that the sixty thousand or so remaining soldiers still in the borders of Vokaya would tip the scales in their favor and bring the civil war to a swift conclusion. Thus committed, the preparations began, and a grand strategy was drafted by Lord Regent Hans Messer.

The Imperial Preparations

Lord Messer determined that, to rescue the lost legions, they would need to breach the Eastern reaches of the Rampart Line, trek across the Cloud Roads, cross the Great River, press through the Mistwood Gap, and punch a hole in the Vokayan siege lines around the Empress’ Gift. Despite numerous protests to the possibility of such a strategy, Messer assured the council that the depleted Vokayan military would pose no threat.

It was at this point that the council made their first mistake: they believed him.

The levies were called, with the exceptions of the provinces adjacent to the Great River; these would be needed to defend against an attack from the Blessed Imperium (which was still called the Blessed League at the time), should King Alexander seek to take advantage of their weakness. The Falconer armies were gathered in the temporary capital of Settisberg, until their numbers counted to about eight thousand strong.

That number itself was a telling sign. While the army should have been larger considering the size and population of the regions that were being drafted from, the armed forces were still depleted from the wake of the Neverwar. In addition, a lack of confidence from the lords of the Totenwald caused them to only send a portion of their available troops to answer the summons.

Despite the small numbers, Lord Messer was not dissuaded, stating that spy reports from Vokaya put as few as twenty men in each of the castles of the Rampart Line. Confident of victory, the army marched northwest, entering the Steppelands in late September.

The Vokayan Preparations

Lord Messer was not far from the truth when he assumed that the Vokayan military was crippled. While the levy forces in the Holy Falcon Empire had only begun to replenish their numbers, the highly professional military of the Vokayagora Zemla was even slower. Vokayan military doctrines demand highly trained officers and competent mages in most tiers of the army, all of which take years—sometimes decades—to train. The collapse of Lowpeak in the Neverwar had destroyed most of Vokaya’s training facilities and experienced command staff, and despite intense corrective action from the crown and an influx of new recruits, their numbers simply had not recovered.

But, unfortunately for the Lord Regent, Merik Serendi Rex had been expecting an attack, and had made preparations. Three thousand soldiers had been called up from the Vokayan colonies in the Neck, and had been stationed in posts all around eastern Vokaya. Upon learning of the call for levies in Settisberg, Merik deduced that their goal was Vokaya, and ordered the army to gather in Everlight and strike south to the Rampart Line. There were too many possible entry points to cover the whole mountain range like in the olden days, but he planned to use spies and scouts to track the passage of the Imperial army and follow them on the Vokayan side of the border, ready to reinforce any castle that could fall under siege.

He had expected the Falconer army to march all the way to the breaches left in the Rampart Line in the wake of the opening stages of the Neverwar. He would have deployed the army directly there, but the western Steppelands were crawling with armies belonging to the Blessed League, and Merik gambled that the Holy Falcon Empire dare not risk engaging both Vokaya and the Reformation with an army so small.

As usual, the Serendi Rex gambled right, but he hadn’t expected to be dead right. Arx Primus, the coastal fortress on the edge of the Redcliff Bay, was the target the Empire chose. Not only was it the closest Rampart castle to Settisberg, it was also the closest to Everlight and the Vokayan army, and the single largest castle in the Rampart Line. The reason for this blunder on the part of Lord Messer is unknown, but it proved to be his downfall.

The Battle of Frozen Gates

By the time the Empire had arrived, the first snow of winter had arrived. The cold had cost him a few soldiers on the way, but they had come equipped for the climate and he was not concerned by the bad weather. The path to Arx Primus led along a wide beach, which formed a straight line caught between the deep and frigid waters of Redcliff Bay and a mountainous arm of the Rampart Mountains. The Imperial army stretched down the path for nearly a mile.

At the end, Lord Messer was faced with the mighty fortress of Arx Primus: glorious, glittering, and dark. The castle was abandoned; apparently, the castle had been defended by reputation alone for the past three years, as the troops that might have manned it were needed elsewhere. In the biting winds of an early Vokayan winter, he ordered his men to enter the fortress.

The great gates were barred, but that was no problem: he had come prepared for a siege, after all. However it was quickly discovered that a simple ram would not suffice, as the gates had been frozen solid in the cold weather. Ever more proof that the fortress had gone unmanned. Lord Messer decided to use siege ladders next, but before they could be assembled he ordered the men to set camp for the day.

During the night, the Vokayan army made their move. There had been over three thousand men in the castle, kept hidden by illusions and discipline. That night, in the bitter cold, they slipped out of the castle in small transports and moved to the pass to the rear of the Imperial camp, disembarking well out of sight of the camp guards. Hidden from view, they spent the whole of the night building fortifications and siege works.

When dawn arrived the next day, it shone upon the misty shoreline. Arx Primus loomed over the Imperial camp, dark and imposing. As the sunlight burned away the morning fog, however, the Lord Messer was treated to a terrible sight: three massive Vokayan warships, fully manned and ready for war. As the first horns of alarm were sounded through the Imperial camp, the warships opened fire.

What followed was a massacre of every Imperial soldier in Lord Messer’s force. Trapped against the cliffs, they were pounded by the magical artillery for which the Vokayan Navy is famous. Attempting to retreat out of range, they were ground against the Vokayan flanking force, which had by that time erected impressive defensive works. In a last ditch effort, Messer attempted to storm Arx Primus, but found its walls covered in soldiers, and the gates barred. Their ram could not pierce the ice. Step by step, the Vokayan army pressed the Imperials into the very walls of the Rampart Line, and every man was slain. Thus was the end of Lord Messer, and nearly all of the forces still under the command of the Holy Falcon Empire.

The Siege of Settisberg

Merik Serendi Rex was not about to allow his opportunity to lapse. He immediately led the army southward, on the very road taken by Lord Messer earlier that year. Despite the harsh winter, he made excellent time to Settisberg. The lateness of the year, his speed, and the sheer audacity of what he was attempting caught the city’s defenders completely off-guard. The assault on the city lasted less than a day, as the gates were breached and Merik made his way immediately to the Keep. Surrounded and entirely cut off from the whole of their empire, the Council of Regents was forced to surrender to Vokaya.

The Treaty of Settisberg

It is most fortunate for Vokaya that Merik Serendi himself chose to lead the assault, but he anticipated this outcome, so it was hardly luck. His terms for the Council of Regents were harsh, and the treaty all but destroyed the Holy Falcon Empire’s power.

  1. Emperor Samuel Friedhold II would be allowed to keep his throne, but his elder sister, Anna Friedhold, would be educated in Vokaya until her 18th birthday. As she had recently turned eight years old, this provision would last ten years time. The Council of Regents were permitted to send tutors, but Merik retained the right to deny any tutor he found unacceptable. Upon Anna’s 18th birthday, the Council of Regents would be forced to pay a lump sum of gold for her return; this was to reimburse the Vokayan crown for Anna’s living expenses.
  2. The vacancy in the Council of Regents left by Hans Messer’s death would be filled by a Vokayan ambassador of Merik’s choosing. This man—or woman—had veto power over any decision the Council made, which could only be overturned by a unanimous vote by the rest of the Council.

With the second provision in place, the Council abandoned all pretenses of civility. They screamed, and shouted, and some of them even begged. Merik was unmoved. By the end of the day, each of the five remaining Regents had signed the document, and in so doing, they surrendered the independence of the Holy Falcon Empire to the Vokayagora Zemla.

Aftermath

This treaty marked the last peace treaty pending with the Empire. The Blessed League had signed a peace agreement months before, and the Dunvales Conclave never officially declared war. With the Holy Falcon Empire finally backing down, Vokaya was finally, at long last, no longer at war.

The Neverwar, begun when the Demon Empress had sat upon the Radiant Throne, had finally drawn to a close.

Treaty of Settisberg

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