War of Thorns
A war between the budding Aurian Empire and the country of Torash. It lasted 29 years from 6 to 34 PE.
The new Empire founded under its first Emperor Jomark in 0 PE had consolidated most of the eastern city states under its direct financial or military control. Many of the states had been willing to to accept or unprepared to properly repulse Auria’s incredible expansionism. However many Torans, including those in the Toran royalty at the time realised what was coming. In order to better prepare for attack the nation embarked on its own militarisation and expansionism. When Auria saw how difficult it would be to engage directly with Torash they backed off and for six years focused on consolidating their power over the other city states. Nevertheless, eventually Auria had to decide if it wanted true domination and it did.
The Unification Wars were going well. With the subjugation of a southern section of the forest of Oakhome and a successful campaign to take Wrennost in the north, all eyes turned to Torash. Some argued that they had to hit now before Torash got even stronger citing the failure to attack Torash years ago as the reason for the current predicament. So the War of Thorns began.
It is important to note that Auria did not stop its other campaigns for some time. The Unification Wars cover according to most Imperial Historians for 0-22 PE well into the prolonged War of Thorns. Indeed some of the time the Emperor seemed eager to have a victory elsewhere to distract from the ‘Torash problem’.
The primary characters of the War are
- Jomark – Emperor of Auria
- King Kelvan of Torash
- Grant Boldant – High Marshal of the Empire
- Corbet Wyntyrs – Sometimes called the ‘The Goat’ or ‘The Survivor’
- Sentinal Smythe – spymaster for Torash and founder of the Council of Swords.
6 PE – 9 PE a shock for Auria.
In the early years 6 – 9 PE Auria received a major check. it initially marched on Torash in the same way it had gone against other reluctant city states. It simply marched in with a show of force backed by threats and promises of a life made easier under Aurian rule. What happened was caused by two misconceptions on the part of the Aurians.
1. Torash was better prepared for actual invasion than any previous victim. Torash fully expected Auria to come whereas others had always believed they would somehow avoid it. Torash wasn’t looking to avoid it… they were looking to survive it. When the assault came it found the Border Forts already built. The armies took horrendous losses and had to slow their march and completely rework their strategy.
2. Torash was absolutely determined not to become Aurian. This caused them to continue to defy Aurian offers for a negotiated peace under their terms. This was also something the Aurians were not used to. Against all reason and logic the Torans refused surrender even though it cost them mightily in human life and money and land to do so. In the end it also cost them the throne and Torra City.
10 PE the Bold Offensive
Auria realised the forts were costing them battles and eventually fell back and reorganised. They redirected men from other successful and now concluded campaigns to the Toran war front under the direction of High Marshal Grant Boldant. Then in 10 PE he re-initiated the War of Thorns with the ‘Bold Offensive’. This broke through several Border Forts and brought them under Imperial control. These victories were sung from every tower in Tor Honarik and many thought the war would be done within a year. Grant’s popularity soared and many believed he would marry Jomark’s daughter and set himself up as the Emperor’s logical successor. However it was not to be. Though the Bold Offensive had indeed broken through and taken some of the Border Forts it had by no means taken them all (4 to be precise). Grant tried to press inward toward Torash itself but kept having to pull back as his supply lines were threatened and he risked being surrounded by the Toran army called the Redwatch because of their red uniforms. In the end it stalled the offensive and one of the occupied towers was lost during an overbold strike to the heartland.
11 PE – 16 PE The Hold and Push
Realising it was not to be an easy victory Grant once again changed his plans and whilst forces were drawn away to push into the northern forest he consolidated his hold and focused on slowing expanding his war front to take the border forts. This was very costly in time, men and supplies. However it eventually proved effective. Many historians consider the Hold and Push to have had 2 major effects
1. It embedded a deep and abiding hatred between Torans and Aurians.
The Border Forts became known as the Death Pits in these years. Being assigned there was supposedly tantamount to a death sentence. This embittered both sides but especially the Toran military and made them eventually so angry and cynical they refused to surrender even in hopeless situations. Many stories are written of garrisons who starved themselves at their posts rather than surrender to Aurians. Specifically it made the Toran General Corbet Wyntyrs extremely bitter and he lost all rationality when discussing the Aurians and their war effort. He refused to flee even hopeless situations and was captured twice because of it. Both times he was able to get free and one of those times he was reportedly rescued by Sentinal Smythe the Toran spymaster. Corbet was called the Goat for his stubbornness, but no other Toran caused the Empire so much loss through attrition.
2. It made Auria’s eventual victory seem inevitable.
Auria slowly won every fight. One by one their army rolled down the line and took every Border Fort. This relentless slow juggernaut like approach broke the spirit of some Torans completely. Importantly according to known history it broke the Toran King Kelvan and made him want to sue for peace with Auria.
16 PE work begins on the Inner Forts.
17PE-19PE Potential Peace (Cease Fire)
After the leveling of the Border Forts Torash was reeling. The King arranged for a brief cease fire whilst the two sides considered their options. Jomark was anxious to accept such a solution as it was certain to lead to a favorable treaty to Auria and bring an end to a very costly war.
18 PE – King Kelvan is killed.
Some say in an Aurian attack, some say in a charge at the head of his honour guard, yet most historians now agree the evidence suggests his death was planned and executed by Wyntyrs and Smythe because he was a beaten monarch and ready to sue for peace. The war recommences.
20 PE- Redwatch completed and the new leadership of Torash the military council called the Council of Swords took up residence here rather than in Torash itself.
19PE-24PE The Lance Strike and the Plain of Blood
Over these years Auria took increasing amounts of land in northern Torash. Grant, now having recovered his popularity but having missed his chance to marry the princess drive towards Torash Central and orchestrated the ‘Lance Strike’ taking out Arcenfast with a sudden direct and devastating side campaign. However the Lance was blunted by the Border Forts and the army suffered a major defeat on the ‘Plain of Blood’ when the Goat led out from Redwatch a huge Toran force and cut through the Lance’s reinforcing army while it was on the march. Unfortunately Auria forces near by attempted to save the day and arrived to help but did so piecemeal and were each defeated in detail. The Plain of Blood was a military disaster the likes of which Auria had never previously suffered. The physiological damage was extreme and the backlash back in Tor Honarik and Tor Kalash was extreme. Now, the Aurians wanted to see the Torans destroyed not merely defeated.
23-24 PE – The Inner Forts network is completed. Originally no such forts were considered, but after eight years of war fare and the disastrous Hold and Push campaign Torash realised it was going to need another secure line of defence.
28-34 PE the siege of Redwatch. The Master fortress is surrounded and laid siege to. Any direct assault is considered all but hopeless but the Toran leadership (bar Smythe) was trapped inside. The siege was awful and there were skirmishes, but the main threat was starvation. Many horror stories are still told as legend from this time.
26 PE- 29 PE – The Thorn Years
The Aurian military attacked again with a no quarter given policy, no longer accepting surrenders but slaughtering Toran wherever they could. In these years most of the atrocities: the rapes, pillaging, torture and sacking of towns took place. The Torans struck back with equal savagery, but didn’t have access to Aurian civilians in the same way the Empire had. Some on both sides started a habit of marking their skin with thorns for every enemy they killed.
30-31 PE The Last Stand
Occupying most of northern Torash now, the Border Forts occupied broken or leveled, Redwatch neutralised through siege and Arcenfast taken the Aurians started their final move to end the war. It was called Eaglefall. It was stopped by the Inner Forts during this time they became ‘the Last’. They had no choice if they had fallen Torash itself was a sprawling very hard to defend city full to the brim with desperate refugees. The battles at the Inner Forts were bloody and terrible costing major losses on both sides but in the end enough of them held. The Aurian General Grant Boldant was too committed to the war however he could not leave the Forts, could not go back until he had drank the blood of Torash in the city itself. So the slaughter continued and some suggest he enacted unholy rites to end the war. However one deep in the winter of 31 PE he was killed in his war camp by a Toran surprise attack. his death proved an opportunity for the Ro’Tier to suggest cutting losses in the War of Thorns. This turned aside the intensity of the wa from that moment.
32-34PE Peace Talks
Yet it took years for the Ro’Tier and Jomark to convince the people of Auria to let go of their fury long enough to hash out a peace settlement of any kind. Eventually, Jomark managed it on sheer force of will and power, though even his popularity took a hit for it.
The peace agreement expanded Aurian borders in the north and the east over the Border Forts and they gained some monetary incentives, but these were merely covers for Aurian pride and did little to assuage the pain felt from the horrendous loss of life and capital in the most lengthy and bloody war ever fought by two human nations.
Interestingly, the ‘victorious’ general the Goat as Wyntyrs was known survived the war, but that was all he did. His power was broken and he was released from the Council of Swords as soon as the war ended. Some kind of deal was struck to hide many of his commands and choices from the last 29 years and in return he disappeared into obscurity. Sentinal Smythe on the other hand, who had always lived in the shadows under the previous king, stayed on the Council and helped re-write Toran history, law and politics going into the new era.