I write this recollection of the Outcast War some years after the fact, penning the tale from my own memories, notes, and papers from the time. I was young and brash then, knowing very little about what was truly going on. As time has passed, I see how epic the struggle was and the far reaching effects it had on people.
It was around the year 374 that I and other young squires and pages were listening to our betters in the Crossing Paladin Guild when a Knight arrived claiming need of people for service in the Navy. I ignored him at first thinking, who am I to believe I am yet ready for something such as that. I hardly know how to be a Paladin after all. Then he spoke directly to me, "You there, join the Navy with me!" I blinked and stared back. "Me?" I said, pointing at myself. I was at once flummoxed and at the same time thrilled that a Knight would take notice of me.
He went on to explain that the Prince had activated the Navy again and needed crews to defend the seas from Pirates and whatever other invaders may come. This sounded to be a good enough cause, but I still had reservations. For one, I could hardly swim, what if the ship sank? Perhaps he wants me for an anchor.
The Knight finally introduced himself as Poetus, a Lieutenant in the Navy serving under Trantris Esselyon. The unit he was forming was to be known as Esselyon's Marines, though there was no ship assigned as yet. After some thought, I agreed and was brought in as a Seaman, one of the first of Poetus' recruits.
I cannot say that my training was any more difficult than that of my guild. Under Lt. Poetus we banded together and fought against various evil denizens of Zoluren of which I was already familiar.
Our Commander, Trantris, was an imposing fellow of a rather pompous air, and I disliked him at first. He taught us how to march, salute, salute with arms, and a special salute for when we were shipboard armed with boarding pikes. We marched (I hated marching) and drilled and otherwise did all those military things. Commander Esselyon also led us once on a combat maneuver, which left most of our group fallen. Because of something I did (I still to this day have no idea what) he made me a Sergeant. Great. I hardly knew how to be a soldier or seaman. Gods, what had I gotten myself into?
Once this period was complete, we were given a generous leave subject to recall once a ship had been assigned to our unit.
During this time, I happened to be in the Keep, and inadvertently entered the Great Hall. I stumbled upon a very important looking man I presumed to be the Baron of these lands with a regal lady in attendance. Flustered by the sight, I quickly took my leave and went to the nearest door, which happened to be the kitchen! I continued on my errand coming across the shrine to Rutilor I sought.
I spent what time I needed there, and upon attempting to find my way out of the Keep, I was confronted by some Guard, out of breath and bewildered, asking me who I was and what I was doing there. After explaining as best I could, she told me that the Baron had just been murdered and to keep my eyes out for anyone looking suspicious. To think, I had just saw him breathing a while ago. I saw nothing of note, but did feel saddened. A ruler should not meet so foul an end. I suddenly had some sense of loss, even though these were not my native lands, nor he my Sovereign Lord.
I ultimately learned more of who he was, and what Therengia was, and did attend his memorial service. He was a noble Paladin and a just ruler by all accounts, and I felt compelled to pay my respect.
The Leaping Dolphin
Not long after, I was recalled, we had been assigned a ship, the Leaping Dolphin Commanded by none other than the Commander of the Fleet Chellene Mondraith. What an honor, to be assigned to the flagship of the Zoluren Fleet, which I had learned was also known as the ZEF or Zoluren Expeditionary Force. We also were finally issued uniforms, and some surplus ZEF equipment. Also in the fleet was the Proud Nissa and Selkie's Secret. During my enlistment, I had the honor of serving on all three at one time or another, but the Leaping Dolphin was my ship.
She was a large ship, and took me some time to find my way about it. The waist was wide, and carried six mangonels, with a fore and aft deck, another mangonel on the foredeck. Below, there was a large hold, crew and captain's quarters, a mess, galley and a wardroom. She was a beautiful vessel, especially under sail.
Winds of War
We spent time learning to work the mangonels, a mysterious piece of machinery to me, but after a time, as familiar to me as my sword and armor. We spent time on watch, even though there was nothing to watch for. This led to boredom, and once, I was gambling with a shipmate. Commander Trantris arrived unexpectedly and was not pleased, to say the least. Spent a week swabbing the decks and cleaning the barnacles for that one.
At this time, I first learned the reason the Navy and other military were activated. It seemed that a group of elves had a disagreement long ago with the powers of Ilithi. This resulted in their exile so they traveled to the desert north of Therengia and did not take kindly to being cast out. In fact, they held a 600 year grudge, and wished to do something about it. My thought was, why should we care, just let them come through and settle the score, it is not our fight. I did not care much for Ilithi and Shard anyway, having visited a couple of times. I found it a strange and unfriendly place, and the people there aloof, if not rude. "Let the Outcasts have it," I said.
Well, it got a little more complicated (nothing is ever simple), but the crux of it was, Therengia would not let them pass unimpeded, nor would Zoluren. The Outcasts allied themselves with the Red Sash Pirates, Orcs, Ogres, Goblins and the like. So we had no choice in it. Our foes would come from all sides, and we had to stand ready in defense of our home. Forces gathered, things seemed more ominous with each passing day. When would it start? When would our lives be forever changed?
It was late in the year 375 (~day 291) we heard of the Outcast's march into Therengia. We heard of awesome battles and the relentless advance. Refugees from the north began coming into Zoluren and the Haven's Wind was ferrying more. We had a brief thought of seeing action as her escort, but it was not needed. Hearing of the occupation of Riverhaven saddened me greatly. By all reports, the Outcasts treated the defenders harshly.
The grief could not last long, as soon it was our turn to join the conflict. While off watch, I awoke to the beat to quarters as a red sail had been spied entering the bay (Busar Saaf) to Arthe Dale. The schooner approached and we put our skills with the mangonels to the test. Alas, we did not shoot well, but as she prepared to board us, we were able to land a lucky shot driving her off for a time. Later, Naarg, the Ogre Chieftain, attacked the West gate, Grishnok and his forces at the north gate, and another schooner had landed some pirates in Arthe Dale. We had our hands full.
The next few days became a blur. When not watching the bay we responded to the gates of Crossings to aid in the hard fought battles there. I had learned of an infantry unit, the Dragoons, and threw in with them whenever I was able. Ogres, Orcs, Goblins, all the foul humanoids were killing and pillaging. All of the death, destruction, but at the same time, duty, honor, devotion to a higher cause. My emotions were and still are muddled. So.... This is war.
We were recalled from the land fighting with an new mission. The Outcasts were sailing out of Riverhaven aboard the pirate vessels Talinak, and Black Star. Our mission was to sink them and put a quick end to their venture south. We entered the open sea hunting our prey. I was on the forward mangonel and expected to see some sharp action. I was not disappointed.
The Black Star was heavily escorted by schooners who moved immediately to engage the ZEF ships. The Talinak drifted back north away from the fray. It was a long engagement with many sharp actions. We fired as well as we could sinking some schooners, and eventually traded shots with the Black Star. It looked as though we might succeed in sinking her, but she turned tail and ran, the schooners going with them. They were last seen heading east, toward the islands, so we turned back home, a partial victory under our belts. It was a proud day for the ZEF, but some of us knew we could do better. We wanted to sink a ship of the line.
When we made port there was celebration, but it was short lived as Naarg came crashing the west gates with his Ogres, and we reinforced the infantry in driving them back. At this time, Leth was attacked and some of my comrades went there to fight off the pirates with the Zoluren land forces. We were stretched thin with not enough to crew a ship and likely not enough to repel another strong land attack.
The next several days, the seas and harbors were quiet. We learned that we had dealt the Pirates a hard blow and they had retired to their hideout for rest and repairs. Riverhaven had since been liberated as well. We were told to keep watch aboard ship when we were able, but in the case of a land attack, to assist the infantry protecting the gates.
Again, I threw in my lot with the Dragoons at the west gate and there we fought incessant waves of Ogres and the like. I was shot up more than once by the horrendous volleys they loosed. The gates held and the Ogres repeatedly were repulsed.
During one skirmish, I became bold, chasing my foes past the brook to the west of town. I found myself encircled, and the way back to town was blocked. I was stranded and hid out in the brook, bleeding and broken. I was lost, no one knew I was there. I had not yet learned of gwethdesuans yet (the reader may be amazed that I did not have something so taken for granted these days, but it is true, I was ignorant of their existence) and could not call for help. The feeling of futility and despair overcame me. I prayed to Chadatru for guidance, to Rutilor for protection, while from Berengaria, I asked to see a new day once again.
After most of a day, I was saved. It seemed I was not the only one trapped behind the Ogres' lines and was found by woman almost as lost as I was. She was more learned, however, and knew of the magical thought . She also knew of something I was unfamiliar with: moongates. I had no idea what she was babbling about just that she was talking to someone via the stones arranging one. When it flared into existence, I did not even know what to do, and was afraid of where the portal may lead. She finally coaxed me through as a rider goads a reluctant horse, and I found myself where I belonged.
Finally, after thirty-two days of bitter fighting, a respite. The Outcasts and Pirates were in Qi, Riverhaven and Crossings had withstood relentless assaults, and it seems the enemy is in need of rest. I am glad to have it as well.
Seven days was all it lasted. There were skirmishes near the clans, but we kept watch on board ship. I had heard there was a lot of action on the Northern Trade Route and in Riverhaven, but the defenders there were standing firm. Then we saw the red sails. Scrambling to get under way, we chased the schooner to sea where we saw even more. In a running battle we were able to sink one before returning to our station. We later learned that Leth was raided by the pirates, but had been turned back.
Not long after docking, the alarm was raised in town. I was dispatched to the west gate and there joined with the defenders. We rallied to the cries of the leaders, and sallied forth from the west gate to take the fight to them. It was cut and thrust, shields up to resist the never ending volleys of bolts and rocks. Many of us fell, but through favor with the Immortals, were able to renew the fight. It was hard fought, but the Ogres could not stand against us.
Goblins swept in from the north and it was a mad scramble to repel that attack as well. I was of little use in this attack, being badly wounded and unable to find an empath to quickly heal me. I was able to help at the end though, and these attackers were repelled as well.
After a couple days rest, we sailed once more on report of schooners lurking in our area. We found one and took leisurely target practice upon it, finally depriving it of it's ability to float. I count that as five schooners we participated in sending to the bottom. The Leaping Dolphin was tallying up a good score, for those keeping it.
As for me, I was weary. I prayed the Immortals uphold and deliver us to victory, or at least some measure of peace.
Prepare to Receive Boarders!
I was on watch when the schooner entered the bay. I woke and rallied the few I could, but we were undermanned. The Pirates pressed us sharply, boarded twice. Some help came, but aid was cut off by Orcs in Arthe Dale. We were bloodied, burned and smashed by the assault, but carried on as best we could. Commands were shouted across the deck, "Load mangonel!" "Aim amidships!" and "Fire at the bloody bastards!" Then the dreaded call, "Prepare to receive boarders!"
Timbers crashed, wounded moaned, the decks were awash with blood, our own and the pirates we had slain. It was a harsh action, but I had one small triumph. A pirate Officer had been knocked to the deck by my mates. I saw my opening and struck him down. Upon his person a scroll was found that contained important news: The Outcasts were sailing for Zoluren.
As no Officer from my unit was present for this action, I sent a dispatch to inform them of the events. I transcribe it here:
Leaping Dolphin, Busar Saaf, 341 Dolefaren 375:
On watch aboard the Leaping Dolphin, at Busar Saaf off Arthe Dale, and there moored, a red sail was observed bearing south. Discerning her for a Red Sash schooner, the decks were cleared for action and the starboard battery manned. Help was summoned from shore as we had only one mangonel crew. As the schooner made straight for us, we were obliged to engage her from our sole position, firing to good effect. She returned the favor with a shot of pitch on our position terribly wounding our crew. Within moments the enemy was near and we received boarders. Once they were repelled, the schooner again fired pitch on our emplacement. I succumbed to my injuries as well as my mates. It was then that help arrived and we once again received boarders. Mangonels were manned and fire was returned as boarders were engaged on the decks. Further reinforcements were denied to us as Arthe Dale was occupied and the road blocked. After fierce fighting and many deaths, the last of the Pirates were slain and the schooner was sent to the bottom. A scroll recovered from a Pirate Officer read, "Raenilar. All is set for our assault on Deriel to commence on the 26th Day of Dolefaren the Brigantine. Aedem." It appears that the fighting will soon come to our province. May the Gods be with us.
~Sgt. Sebestyen Kuliniac
Battle of the Reshal Sea
Knowing what the next move was to be, there was a scramble of activity to refit and repair the Dolphin. All Naval units were on high alert and ordered to be ready to sail at a moments notice. Infantry and Cavalry personnel were assigned to ensure we had full manning of our armaments. This required us to teach them how to use them, of course. Though glad for the help, I had my concerns.
When the time came, we once again sailed out to sea to engage the Pirate ships and send the Outcast Army to the bottom with them. I had heard a rumor that the the royal heir Keresyk si'Allvar was aboard and with the Fleet Commander. Not really my concern though I wondered why he was allowed to put himself at risk. I also worried that it may make our good Commander more timid in action.
It was a cold day, but I was invigorated and warmed at the prospect of a great battle. I was stationed on the main deck, port side mangonel, and in charge of the motley crew of infantry manning it. We made a couple practice shots to ensure that the earlier training had stuck. It was passable work at best. It would have to do.
We were joined by the other ZEF ships, the Proud Nissa and Selkie's Secret and sailed in a line abreast with the Dolphin in the center hunting for the Pirate fleet. First, we spied the Black Star, but she turned tail and ran from us. We then set course for the Lugpuur and a schooner, though they avoided engagement for a time. We finally caught them and the Fleet Commander zigged and zagged the ship making it hard to get a clear shot on one target. It was most frustrating, but looking back, I imagine it was hard for them to shoot at us as well, perhaps saving us from the most damaging of hits. We engaged in a pitched battle for some time, finally destroying them both (Making the Dolphin's score five schooners and one ship of the line).
During this time, the Nissa and Secret took on the Black Star, Dawnsinger and Talinak. Ours was the easier task. We joined in with them and traded shots with the Black Star and Talinak, damaging the latter severely. Upon seeing the Nissa closely engaged with the Dawnsinger, we made for that battle to aid her, but were too late. As we approached, the Nissa went down. The best we could do was rescue the survivors. The Secret managed to finish off the Talinak, giving the Pirates pause. As we attempted to rejoin the Secret, the Black star fired upon us, causing a good amount of damage. Then there was shouting to aft. Keresyk had fallen overboard. That was not good news at all. We attempted to turn and retrieve him from the waters, but he was taken prisoner aboard the Black Star, fished out of the water by Captain Aedem himself.
Here, I transcribe my report of the action to my Commander, who had taken ill and could not join the journey:
Leaping Dolphin, Busar Saaf, 345 Dolefaren 375:
I awoke to the sound of quarters and made haste to my position on deck. The ship was properly crewed with additional gunners pressed into service from Infantry and Cavalry units. With all positions manned, we set sail to see and met with the Proud Nissa and Selkie's Secret. We then sailed in a line abreast with the Dolphin centered to engage the enemy fleet in an attempt to thwart or hinder their landing of troops in Zoluren. The Black Star was spotted briefly, then promptly fled. We continued as the enemy ships did their best to avoid engagement. We attacked the Lugpuur and a schooner as the Nissa and Secret made to engage the Black Star, Dawnsinger and Talinak. We fired effectively from all mangonels and damaged the Lugpurr severely. We then saw it go beneath the waves as a cheer sounded on the decks. We then traded shots with the Talinak, and Black Star, hitting the Talinak hard. When we saw the Nissa closely engaged, we sailed toward the fight, but were aghast when she went under the waves. Making haste to their location, survivors were taken aboard and we were thus reinforced. The Talinak went down also, Selkie's Secret finishing her off. At some time in the Fight and our Royal passenger, Keresyk, was thrown overboard and captured by the Black Star. When the Pirate fleet refused battle and sailed away, we made for port. The bravery of the crews is to be commended, Infantry, Cavalry and Naval alike. May the Gods be with us and aid us as we protect our homeland.
Sgt. Sebestyen Kuliniac,
Thus we sailed home, our hearts saddened by the loss of the Nissa, and that we were unable to prevent the landings at Acenamacra. Add to that the shame of losing our Royal passenger. Though we sank several schooners and two ships of the line, it was not enough.
As the Outcasts moved through Leth, many went to give battle. I remained behind to keep watch for Pirate raids and humanoid incursions. It was several days of relative peace in Crossings until Naarg attacked the west gate yet again. This was beaten back and there was yet another lull. Due to manpower issues, I traded my time between the Dolphin and the Secret for my watch time.
After another week in the lull, the Pirates came back, landing in the bay and blocking off the the docks there (~day 374). Other enemies attacked Crossings as well. This battle lasted for some time and was hard fought. It took some time, but the forces were eventually beaten back to their fortress in Dirge. I was weary at this point. We failed to stop the Outcasts, let them have Ilithi and let us be done with this.
Alas, this was not to be, as the Outcast's allies were to continue to tie up Zoluren's forces to keep us off their backs. I had a few days respite with some skirmishing outside of town. The Secret's crew had a small success by capturing a schooner from the pirates. This brought out the Dawnsinger to chase it down and sinking it.
It was winter, and bitterly cold when our foes ramped up their offensive (~day 384). A huge force of Ogres were seen to the west and were moving through the clans and to the west gate. We halted their advance after some hard fighting, and they there built a barricade. No sooner had we secured the west, Pirates again cut off Arthe Dale building fortifications. They were pillaging the Dale, gathering supplies. A hard winter indeed for Zoluren's citizens. During a lull I weep for the destruction wrought by this war.
It was not until the new year that we were able to push back Naarg's ogres, and then liberate Arthe Dale. It was a horrible and bloody fight, during which I was bereft of my youthful enthusiasm. I was weary from the work. Yes, work is what it had become. No honor, or glory, just a job that needed doing. Crashing barricades, hacking the foe as one would harvest the wheat. No more emotion, no tears. I had changed.
My War Winds Down
The next two weeks saw skirmishing up and down the NTR, and a retaking of the fort in Dirge. Then there was "The Day of the Goblin" in which Crossings was covered by the vile creatures. A goblin, Tnok was proposing an alliance with Zoluren. What have we come to?
We had a small action, sinking another schooner in the bay making the Dolphin's score 10 schooners, 2 ships of the line. It was good to have a ship board action again. Sea fighting was still fraught with danger and death, but it was a different kind of fight.
Another week later, there was large attack of Pirates again taking Arthe Dale. Many other forces were moving on us as well. The Goblins fought the ogres with some initial success, but were eventually beaten down leaving the balance of Naarg's forces to us. Orcs came from the north. We were barely hanging on at this point. It would be ten days (~day 30) before we were to wrest the Clans and Arthe Dale from the invaders hands. It was during this time that Shard was finally taken by the Outcasts.
On the 32nd day of the 1st month of Akroeg the Ram, in the year of the Emerald Dolphin (376) - the Ferdahl of Shard and leader of the Elothean people, Lady Kukalakai Alec'i'neir, is dead.
So read the histories. It did not matter to me, however. Though sad, it was a debt apparently owed. The only reason this had become my fight is because my home had been attacked.
Prince Vorclaf called for an offensive against King Raenilar to avenge the death of the Ferdahl. I volunteered to remain In Crossings. The Northern Alliance marched south and clashed with the Outcasts. Selkie's Secret saw some action against resupply schooners from time to time, and I was happy to keep watch aboard the Dolphin, sail on a patrol, beat back Pirate raids, and fight some Ogres to keep them at bay. By the 60th day of 376, this war was over. Although lasting less than a year, the ferocity of this conflict would leave a mark felt for a generation at least.
Raenilar Ruled in Ilithi for a while, then grew weary of the place. His vengeance taken, he had no love of the land, having never known it. They eventually went back to the deserts to the north. What a futile waste of effort, blood and life.
The spring of 376 brought news to me of my ailing mother. The displacement of war and the harsh winter had not been good to her. No doubt worry for her only son took it's toll as well. I sought an extended leave to see to her and it was granted.
I wandered about after her passing, never feeling quite at home anymore. The Naval units disintegrated, and I turned to my studies and training as a Paladin. Life returned to normal for most, but there is an open wound on the lands. It may take decades to heal fully.