Officially, the Great War began in 470 CE and ended, quite conveniently, in 570 CE, exactly one hundred years later. Obviously, it's neither that simple, nor that exact. In the first place, if anyone cared to ask the victims of the Confederation's takeover of Ameran Indi in the 460s, they would probably hear a different date for the official start of the war. The people of the Sudaani Empire would place it some five years later when the first waves of Confederation soldiers landed on their shores and the fight for control of the Empire began in earnest.
The ending of the war is just as imprecise. In 560 CE the Allies pulled out of Vin-Nôrë entirely as it began mustering troops for the massive, final assault on Ameran Indi. Both Shanakara and Gloredil had been recovered more than ten years earlier, along with major parts of both kingdoms. So for many of the citizens of those two countries, the war (mostly) ended in the 50s, not thirty years later in 570.
The Early Years
In 470 CE, the Sudaani Empire, who had been watching the rise to power of an organization that called itself “The Confederation”, finally landed troops on Ameran Indi in an attempt to stop what they believed to be the inevitable invasion of the imperial homeland. Unfortunately, the Sudaani Empire's history of warfare was slight. Never in its history had it maintained a standing army. For several thousand years, what little armed conflict was needed to preserve the borders, was accomplished by the nomadic tribes that lived in the southern regions. They were grossly unprepared for the violent, determined enemy they met on Ameran Indi's shores. The losses were catastrophic. Military historians believe that the epic defeat in the Battle of Albasra Bay set the stage for the Confederation's early success in the war to come.
With the Sudaani army already defeated, Confederation commanders moved quickly. They immediately assaulted the Empire and, by the end of 471 CE, only a year later, had pushed the Sudaani Empire to the breaking point. The emperor was in exile; the capital, Shanakara, was in enemy hands, as was most of the north country. Only Orahnn remained free; but it was all the shattered remains of the Imperial Army could do to hold it. The emperor pleaded for international help.
Cascadia Arms for War!
Ties between the Sudaani Empire and Cascadia had always been close, It was therefore natural that one of the first allies the emperor approached for military aid was his far northern neighbor, and Cascadia responded immediately—though it was no more ready for war than the Empire. Having a large frontier, it was, however, more familiar with armed conflict, especially with the subhuman populations that were always pushing against its borders. Within months, a fleet was sailing south to shore up the defense of Orahnn. Then it turned its mind to its largest asset: its manufacturing base.
Like the Empire, Cascadia was also an economic powerhouse. It was rich. It had almost unlimited resources. Most importantly, it had direct contact with the elves and dwarves though the tiny enclave the elves maintained right in the City of Fernwall. In less than two years, Cascadia was cranking out war material by the shipload, and had trained the largest standing army the planet had seen in centuries.
It still wouldn't be enough!
Sylantia Arms For War!
It wasn't just Cascadia that the Emperor appealed to for help. It also approached Vin-Llamáz, Surmeidän, and Vin-Nôrë, the three human countries of Sylantia, for aid; but the Sylantia was already well aware of what was happening to their southern neighbor. One by one, they all declined to assist the emperor, even though Vin-Llamáz's relations with the Empire were at least as close as Cascadia's. Instead, they opted to reserve their power and make preparations for the invasion all knew was coming. In effect, they told the Sudaani Emperor: You're on your own!
That would prove to be a critical mistake. By the early '80s the Confederation had the Empire firmly in its clutches, though Orahnn and its surrounding countryside remained stubbornly in Allied control. Victory had come much sooner than anyone in Sylantia believed possible. The Confederation had been given more than a decade to consolidate, to build up its forces, and to shift its military industrial complex into high gear. It had the entire Continent of Sylantia in its sights, and control of northern Sudaan gave the Confederation ready access to the picturesque Paradise Islands—a chain of islands that led straight to the southern coast of Vin-Llamáz.
Sylantia was in trouble, and they knew it!
The Dark Decades
By the mid '80s, the Confederation was landing troops on Vin-Llamáz's soil. Despite the preparations made in the early years of the decade, despite the war like history of “the Medini people”,1 against such incredibly violent, base brutality, the 'Llamázi military was brutally overwhelmed. So, like the Empire, Vin-Llamáz found itself facing invasion with little credible military defense left standing. The cities along the eastern coast fell as easily as the towns and hamlets that dotted the western Paradise Islands. The capital city, Gloredil, fell almost as easily, though, by the time the Confederation army got there, the entire government had vanished into thin air.
Vin-Nôrë did what she could to help her southern Medini sister, which weakened her own defense, though not terribly so. As the Confederation pushed north, the fighting turned increasingly bloody. Now well battle hardened, and more war like by nature anyway, the 'Nôrëans fought back hard. By the time the battle line reached the (forever disputed) southern border of Vin-Nôrë and the fabled Plains of Isen, the Confederation army found itself crashing into an increasingly resilient wall of solid martial steel. The Plains of Isen, the holy land and epicenter of the Guardian Paladin religion, nestled into the hill country on the south east corner of the Kaŝeruk Range, was a place the Confederation wanted badly (for reasons that to this day are not fully understood); but well defended by the holy knights of Isenbrand as it was, it would never fall.
To the east, the Vin-Nôrëans had shortened their lines,and were drawing on everything they had learned in their strategic withdrawal from Vin-Llamáz. They gave ground grudgingly, when they gave it at all. The bloodshed was as epic as the body count the Vin-Nôrëan knights wracked up against their hated enemy. The Confederation was gaining ground, but they were paying a horrendous cost for every centimeter, and there were those in Püran-Khir who believed they couldn't continue to pay such a high price forever. If Vin-Nôrë could just hold on, they could win.
They were wrong.
For another ten years the battle for Vin-Nôrë would rage on, chewing up Confederation soldiers and war material like a mill wheel chews through wheat. Eventually, the Confederation would win control of all but the high plateau country in the very north; but the knights of Vin-Nôrë, proud and strong, would never accept defeat, and never quit harassing the Confederation forces occupying their land. Like the Plains of Isen, the County of Nurinen, the hereditary holding of the Vin-Nôrëan crown, would become an ongoing pain in the Confederation High Command's side.
The march westward also proved problematic for the Confederation. The western border between Vin-Llamáz and Surmeidän is the mighty Mahantathanï River, and it proved to be more of a barrier to Confederation expansion than an entire army; and to the north lay the lands of the elves, which were even more impenetrable than the Plains of Isen! Eventually it was decided that troops would have to be landed in the main port and capital, Eärendil. Once that was accomplished, being a land of peaceful peasants, Surmeidän fell more easily even than Vin-Llamáz. Only the elven territories remained free. Though the elves never raised an army against them, no matter what the Confederation tried, the power of the elves and dwarves could not be broken. Their lands remained not only untouched by the ravages of war, but a refuge for civilians displaced by the Confederation advance.
The Treaty of Amiens
In the year 528 CE, in a tiny farm village called Amiens, deep in the southern foothills of the Kaŝeruk, all the governments in exile, and the king of Cascadia, met in secret. The Sudaani Empire was effectively under Confederation control, as was nearly all of human controlled Sylantia. The elves and dwarves would fight only to maintain their own territories, though they were more than wiling to provide advanced weapons and materials as needed. Beyond that, it was up to humans to find a way to overcome their horrible foe, and the world leaders knew there was only one way: they had to unite under one military banner that all would pour their remaining resources into. They had to fund research and development, and they had to convince their surviving populations, now living in refugee camps, to produce the goods and materials needed to push back the Confederation. These were all things the Confederation had been doing for nearly three decades, and it showed.
Thus, the Treaty of Amiens was drafted, creating a global military organization to which all the signatories would provide men and material as they were able. The International Merchant Marine Corps primary purpose would be to protect shipping, manage ports, and to install and maintain navigation aids; but for the duration of the war, it would also provide a combined international military force whose sole mission was to defeat the Confederation and return control to the national governments. To facilitate the combined efforts, guilds were internationalized so that a guild member's status and expertise in one country would recognized in all the others. For higher guilds, such as the Wizards' Guild, the Shipwrights' Guild, and the Teacher's Guild, this had the side benefit of speeding research and development. A critical component of the strategy. The Herald's College was reorganized into The International Guild of Heralds, and was tasked with handling diplomatic matters, as well as sorting out the genealogical mess three decades of attempted human extermination had created. Standardization was the new craze, efficiency the game. If humanity was going to survive, this was how: Efficiency and innovation. Two things humans were very very good at.
The International Merchant Marines Enter The War
Only a year after the Treaty of Amiens was signed, a small squadron of warships sailed out of Fernwall Bay, flying the new IMMC pennant. The officers and crew were wearing their newly designed uniform, and they answered to no single head of state. Their task was small, but significant: they were to protect the shipping lanes from the Port of Fernwall in the north, to a secret staging base the IMMC was building on the island of Bas Taang, in the south. The allied commanders had long known they were losing massive amounts of material to Confederation paid buccaneers. All routes out of the Port of Fernwall passed by the Toraz Islands, a group of islands that was nearly impossible to navigate—except by those who knew how. Rutters containing such navigational data were some of the most closely guarded secrets of the war (and post war, come to that). Piracy was the only way the Confederation could obtain the advanced weapons, such as the dwarven ballista. The allies knew this. They also knew they had to move thousands of shiploads worth of men and material safely to Bas Taang. Squadrons of warships would be cranked out as fast as the human hands in Fernwall could build them, to do just that.
Over the next ten years, the IMMC would rise out of the hill sides of Angels in northern Fernwall. As the city built ships, the military built soldiers, cavalrymen, and sailors. They amassed weapons and armor, horses, and artillery; they trained special forces to operate behind enemy lines, and they gathered together the human world's knowledge of the Confederation, its battle plans and supply lines. The Confederation knew the winds were changing; they had no concept of just how far, or how fast. In 538 a grand ceremony was held on the parade grounds of the newly dedicated Merchant Marine Base in Fernwall. It was the changing of command. Theater commanders would now report directly to IMMC High Command, who would, from that time forward, direct the allied war effort.
Along with the new command structure came an array of new weaponry, against which the Confederation found itself hopelessly unprepared. Flyers, an idea originally invented by the Confederation itself as a means to defeat ground forces and deliver orders, became a military power in their own right. The accursed dwarven ballista were mounted on wagons to provide powerful mobile artillery fire. The new troops were issued cloaks that made them invisible to the powerful, if stupid, war orc—the backbone of the Confederation army. Somehow, navy ships were now finding and attacking Confederation ships with improbable ease. Meanwhile, buccaneer hits on allied merchant convoys was falling at an alarming rate, sucking oxygen out of Confederation supply lines. For the first time since the war began, the Confederation found itself on the defensive, and the new allied armies hadn't even won a major battle.
The Allied March
Naval air power; ships that could see in the dark, and over the horizon; invisible troops capable of hiding behind enemy lines for weeks, or months, at a time; land air forces that could strike a hundred kilometers behind the lines; steel encased heavy cavalry that played hob with shield lines and supply convoys; it was all too much for the Confederation to keep up with. What the humans didn't have in the way of personnel they more than made up for with their accursed technology in an onslaught that would eventually drive the Confederation from every acre of land they had bloodied.
From their toe hold on Bas Taang, the IMMC High Command sailed south. It's first major target was Shanakara, captial of Sudaan. Orahnn was still free. A drive from Shanakara to the northern shores of the Sea of Orahnn would give the allies a major port in the southern hemisphere. It would also free up badly needed resources for the war effort; and, taking back the lands first occupied by the Confederation would boost morale. It would also put the emperor back on the Imperial Throne—a major psychological blow to the Confederation. At the same time, the allied High Command also chose to drive west, across the Paradise Islands to Gloredil, unconsciously following the same route the Confederation itself had followed some fifty years earlier.
The battle plan assumed that the allied holding and harassing actions taken the decade previous, had stretched the Confederation's lines thin. Now, with their modern military machine fully assembled, and the Confederation pirate operation in disarray, they could divide the Confederation forces in half, isolating half on the continent of Sylantia, and the other on the continent of Sudaan. This would force the Confederation to give up territory as they shortened up their lines; and to the allied High Command, territory freely given was as good as a victorious battle. Both sides needed land for food production, but agriculture was something else humans did much better than the war orc. Comparatively, humans needed relatively small amounts of land to feed the same size army as the Confederation, who grew wild “sorrel wheat”2 exclusively. Or, more accurately, the orcs threw the seed on the ground and came back to harvest whatever grew, later. Humans enslaved for farming raised production levels some, but not much.
It was a sound strategy, but it took a lot longer to implement than the allies had hoped. It took ten years of brutal fighting to regain control of the capitals of Sudaan and Vin-Llamáz, and there was still no end in sight to the suffering in Vin-Nôrë; but in that bloody decade, control of engagements shifted dramatically. The Confederation was no longer in control of the battlefield, the sea lanes, or even their own supply lines. The IMMC High Command had them re-acting, on both continents, and at sea. Allied power was on the rise. Even the natives, caught behind the lines, were restless. Enslaved workers were killing their handlers, their half-orc babies, poisoning food packed for transport to troops, and sabotaged weapons in ways even half-orc inspectors couldn't see. The ingenuity of the human solder, on land, sea, and air, could only be matched with overwhelming force; but even with a cadre of fast growing war orcs armed with advanced, stolen weapons, overwhelming force was becoming a commodity ever fewer field commanders had at their disposal.
In short, the Confederation's High Command slowly began to realize it was in the exact same position as the humans, a mere twenty years earlier; but unlike their human foe, they had no scientific or economic reserves to draw from. The war, High Command knew, was lost. The game now, from their perspective, was one of attrition. They would burn up their remaining military might in a play for time. The question for the allied commanders was: time to do what?
The End Game
Over the next twenty years the IMMC would effectively free Sudaan, Vin-Llamáz, Surmeidän, and Vin-Nôrë, pretty much in that order. Right up until the end, however, the Confederation fought on, holding pockets of territory in strategically important locations. Eventually the IMMC would deploy specially trained (or disposable) fire teams to take, or at least open up, difficult positions, such as Bagédaan, in northern Sudaan, for assault. In Vin-Nôrë, the last country the Confederation still partially occupied, royal troops and the Knights of Isen harassed supply lines and destroyed reconnaissance patrols day and night; but still, the Confederation would not let the place go. Finally, even though it had pulled out of Vin-Nôrë to prepare for the final assault on Ameran Indi, the IMMC arranged a special mission to weaken, or destroy, the Confederation held port, and castle, of Par-Dhöl. If nothing else, they hoped they might learn something that would help them understand the Confederation's obsession with the southern half of Vin-Nôrë. The tactic worked in the sense that it eliminated an entire Confederation division, but still, the Confederation fought on.
The IMMC had to move on. Vin-Nôrë had a new “champion,” and the governments of both Vin-Nôrë and Vin-Llamáz were fully functioning. The IMMC could offer logistical special forces help, but everyone knew the war would not be over until Ameran Indi had been re-taken and the Confederation High Command driven from power; and that was the main focus of the IMMC High Command.
It was a bloody campaign. It was a horrid campaign. Decades later, battle hardened soldiers who had seen combat on two continents before the landing on Ameran Indi, would still suffer nightmares from what they experienced there. The Confederation and their unholy troops had turned the beautiful continent into an alien waste land. The horrors visited on the humans who had been enslaved there made the unbelievable tragedies suffered in the breeding camps of Sudaan and Sylantia seem like paradise revisited; but if the Confederation believed that experiencing such brutality was going to dissuade the allies, they were sadly mistaken. As one general put it: “A century's worth of anger was released on those unfortunate enough to stand in the way of our soldiers. Every living thing was cut down: males, females, infants, fell beasts; all were put to the sword without mercy, or burned in the stinking hovels or barns in which they lived.” Only humans were spared slaughter. A decade later, the bardic historian Carl Palmer would estimate that there were less than a hundred thousand humans still left alive on Ameran Indi, a continent covering nearly a million square nautical miles, by the time the blood letting ended.
Perhaps the greatest pain suffered by the soldiers didn't occur during the fighting on Ameran Indi. It came later, as those same troops had to clean up the mess. The number of strange, experimental beasts bred by the Confederation was as staggering as it was sad. What they did to humans was even worse; entire camps of hopelessly deformed, and in many cases, non-functional human type… things had to be maintained while scientists and mages tried to figure out a) what in the nine-hells the Confederation was thinking, and b) what should be done with the poor creatures. To this day, nobody knows what the point of such unholy experimentation was. One line of thinking suggests that there was no point—or that the cruelty itself was the point. Point or no point, neither answer settles well on the human psychi.
Meanwhile, even as the celebrations began around the world, the realization that there was much work to be done was dawning on the survivors. Nobody alive remembered a world without the shadow of extermination ever drifting overhead. Nobody alive remembered a world not at war, nor did their parents or grandparents. Many had gotten rich and built empires off of the war; many more had known suffering of a kind hard to imagine. The bleeding had stopped, but other wounds, wounds harder to heal, still remained, and would remain for an entire generation.
Every agrees, however, that now is the time of opportunity. Humanity has won itself a chance to rebuild build a better post-war world. It now has the technical know how to better the lives of even the least of its citizens, and the political know how to make it work on a global scale. The question is: will it happen?
There are other forces at work as well. Nobody knows what happened to the Confederation High Command; nobody knows why they started the war in the first place; nobody knows why they were so focused on southern Vin-Nôrë; nobody knows what sparked the civil wars in Balkland and Sun Ya. Is the world a safe place? Will the humans who fought with the Confederation behave, or are they planning something else?
- The peoples of Sylantia refer to themselves as “the Medini”, and the three human kingdoms of Sylantia as “the Medina”. It is a reference to their first landing on the continent, and its settlement by the great, mythological King Chandar, who it is said, “disbursed his people throughout the Medina, charging them mightily to claim the land for their own.” ↵
- Sorrel wheat isn't really “wheat” at all. It's a pernicious, scrubby, perennial weed that forms seed heads which can be ground into flour, hence the name. It required more skill to eradicate than to grow, and it grows almost everywhere. Human farmers spend an inordinate amount of time trying to contain it, especially in fields newly put to the plow. It also tastes horrible! Human women, forced to eat it in breeding camps, have described the taste as something akin to eating soured socks drenched in urine, with a dry, mealy texture like that of saw dust. Fortunately for both the orcs and humans who have to survive on it, it is a nutritionally packed complex carbohydrate. ↵