After the success of the FirCruthen’s surprise invasion in the north east of Erin early in the spring of this year 1108 the Factions found themselves facing the Keltoi armies at the strategic pass of Glenshane. Defeating the enemy here would allow the Factions to sweep down across northern Erin and onwards to the Great Forest of Erin in Clare, where it was rumoured that the ancient and mysterious inhabitants were also engaged in resisting the Keltoi.
Soon after their arrival in the area the Lions following a legend discovered a long lost King from ancient times and given their recent turmoil it seemed that the gods had brought them to this place for the purpose of finding High King Tristan and so he was acclaimed their new King and leader.
With King Tristan were many mythical heroes of the past who also joined the Lions war host, and the Lions rejoiced to once again have a King. On the first night a strange development occurred when a party of Keltoi approached the Wolves with an offer of peace between themselves and the Factions brokered by a certain Lord Elrand. Whilst obviously making no promises the Wolves said that they would attend a ‘peace meeting’ at noon the next day to hear Lord Elrand’s proposal and that they would inform the other Factions of this meeting.
The next day a large party of the Keltoi were waiting at the appointed time and place as were the Wolves and some other Factions, arriving late were the FirCruthen who were in no mind to parley with the invaders of their land. This mood was further enhanced when it was revealed that the so called terms on offer amounted to little more than conditional surrender on the part of the Factions as decreed by the Keltoi High King Owain ap Kernow! On hearing these demands the FirCruthen became incensed and despite the flag of truce proceeded to attack the Keltoi party. They were sadly over-matched and most were struck down in a shocking display of martial and magical strength by the Keltoi. Luckily most were saved by the withdrawal from the field of the Keltoi in the face of possible further aggression from some of the other Factions; nevertheless, it was a salutary lesson in the power of their enemies that the Factions would all soon have to face.
Later that day the FirCruthen, Jhereg, Steppe Alliance and Wolves took the field for the first assault on the enemy lines. Apart from defeating the enemy and securing a strategically important position, the Factions sought other objectives that day. Many powerful Keltoi who were believed to be in the area including one who was rumoured to be responsible for their Tattoos which seemed to be their source of magical power. Sadly, this individual was not found by the Factions and it was a chance missed. Nevertheless, the brave Factions succeeded, despite casualties in securing their tactical objectives and routing their opponents. If the other Factions could also triumph on the morrow, then the power of the Keltoi in the north would be broken and the way left clear to Clare and the Great Forest.
The next day the combined forces of the Algaia, Lions, Vipers and the peoples known as the Hei Ravni took the battlefield against the Keltoi army. Again apart from defeating the enemy there were other sometimes more personal objectives being sought by some of the Factions that day including both the Algaia and the Vipers who both sought Artefacts which had been lost to the Keltoi in the previous campaigns. As the Factions pushed the Keltoi ever backwards for by now they were all experienced in the enemy’s tactics and the counter measures needed to combat them. They came upon what was apparently the enemy commander, none other than Lord Elrand who was supposed to be the one offering the so called treaty terms of the following day. It was surmised that as the terms were offered in the name of the Keltoi High King Owain ap Kernow then this Elrand may well have been his son, this obviously spurred on the Factions to either kill or capture him. Sadly, he proved to be both a mighty warrior and magician who was also supported by a numerous and powerful entourage and thus despite much sacrifice and heavy fighting the Factions succeeding in securing the battlefield he managed to escape thus perpetuating the frustration felt by many of the fact that whilst they had proven that they could now defeat the enemies’ armies they still could not defeat their leaders!
Despite this setback, and the Failure of the Vipers to recover one of the Swords of Teutonia from the Keltoi, the main objective had been achieved as had the recovery of the AlGaian Spear of the Hunter. The way to the Great Forest was now open. The next day whilst securing the local area a mixed strike force drawn from all the Free Peoples was dispatched to locate and destroy a reported haven of the strange Constructs and Harvesters who had been plaguing the Factions at every turn since the Fayre of Siberia. This force was successful in destroying the manufacturing facility in that area as well as capturing a prisoner of some importance by all accounts. Although some people counselled that the Factions should be wary of the overtures and intentions of the mysterious and ancient inhabitants of the Great Forest it was decide to continue with the plan to march south to their aid. And so it was with both heavy hearts for their fallen friends but renewed hope from their first two consecutive victories against the Keltoi that the Factions headed south towards the Great Forest of Erin and thus into the unknown.
As spring turned into summer the free peoples found themselves on the borders of the Great Forest of Erin reported home of Fey, Tuatha Da’Nan and other fabled creatures. They soon discovered that this was a time known as the Revel to the Forests inhabitants a time of feasting, joy and renewal of the cycles of life and that this had to occur regardless of any outside threat to ensure the continuation of both the Forest itself and its inhabitants and to protect it against the Keltoi. If this Revel and more specifically the Fey King and Queens mating did not occur, then the Forest would be open to the Keltoi and begin to die along with its people.
To further complicate matters the Fey King and Queen who were naturally opposed to each other due to their natures, they being to some extent the personifications of nature’s differences, and balances, were further estranged over the matter of their daughter the princess who was imprisoned comfortably it must be said though, due to her attempts to leave the Forest and her liaisons with the untrustworthy creature know as Rascal.
To many the memories of this time seem to have a dreamlike quality in keeping with the nature of the Forest and its inhabitants. What is important however is that despite everything the Factions achieved their goals in getting the King and Queen to mate, freeing the Princess, impressing the Tuatha Da’Nan so much that they received many items of power to aid them in their up-coming battles with the Keltoi and perhaps most importantly secured the existence of the Great Forest as a bulwark against the Keltoi.
After the trials and tribulations of the war in Erin and the strange happenings of the Great Forest the Free peoples looked forward to the AlGaian Carnivale as an opportunity to rest and take counsel about their final offensive to free Erin. It was with good cheer that the Factions arrived on the beautiful Illes de Pommes to experience the hospitality of Lord Hart and his peoples and to rest and recuperate their strength for the battles ahead.
The Al Gaia had made a tremendous effort to organise many different games and challenges even though many a loser was heard to mutter that their grasp of fair play and rules left something to be desired! All the major contests were held within a specially built arena with seating and shade provided for the visiting dignitaries along with some excellent refreshments and as usual the standard of the competitors was very high. Sadly, not even the idyllic Illes de Pommes was safe from the troubles of the world especially attacks by hostile Formorii seemingly against most Factions when hitherto their attacks were mainly directed against their traditional enemies the FirCruthen.
Her Imperial Highness Nigoussan honoured the Carnivale with a visit via the Ritual Circle! This method of arrival and departure was possibly designed to show the Factions that the Empire still possessed huge magical resources and was not afraid to use them for apparently trivial purposes.
Her Highness was accompanied by her bodyguard the Dai Oni, Gensui Mak and Kuge Nakamura, noticeable by his absence was Shogun Gensui Hiroaki who arrived the next day by a more mundane method. As well as visiting the various Factions and being as charming and polite as ever the Empress took the opportunity to declare that henceforth Kuge Nakamura was the guardian of her Daughter and as such any insult to the Kuge would be construed as an insult to herself, who knows what effects on the future of the Factions relations with the Empire this seemingly innocuous announcement will mean?
Sadly, the Empress’s visit was cut short when her party was set upon by seemingly Greenskin assassins whilst visiting the Lions camp! In this shocking incident the Empress herself was struck down but was soon restored by Gensui Mak. Having retreated to the relative safety of the hosts camp the Empress was swiftly back in good humour but decided that a swift return to Imperial lands was necessary. She attached no blame to the AlGaia as hosts or indeed any other Faction, for the attack, but it was clear that she was not amused and that the culprits would, if found, be in for a tough time. When pressed by the Empress as to his thoughts on the likely source of the assassins Kuge Nakamura replied that perhaps they should look to who was not present that day, a clear reference to the absence of the Shogun. Shortly after recovering her strength the Imperial party left as they had arrived via the Ritual Circle although there did seem to be some delay in the arrival of the Imperial Ritualist who had conveyed the party on their arrival, could this be a mere simple flux in power or something more sinister?
Also visiting the Carnivale was the mysterious but apparently friendly Amgea, leader of the Amgeara who the Factions met first in the Great Forest of Albion. She and her bodyguard visited several Factions and discussed many things although what was learnt from her would need to be sought amongst those who conversed with her. As the time arrived for all to leave the Illes de Pommes and return to the war in Erin most agreed that the AlGaia had provided an excellent Carnivale although the murmurings of discontent surrounding the outcomes of several contests were still to be heard, but it was a refreshed and hearty fleet that set out once more for Erin and hopefully the final battles to liberate it from the grip of the Keltoi. With the Keltoi having withdrawn to Galway in the north western corner of Erin from whence most reports say they originally issued forth from over two years ago, the stage was set for the apparent final defeat of this powerful and tricky foe in the culmination of the year’s campaign to free Erin from their yoke.
Arriving near the Keltoi’s final positions the Factions were welcomed by High King Morgan of the FirCruthen and bade to prepare themselves for the tasks ahead. In the area where the Factions had camped there were two strange structures both of ancient and mysterious origins, some said that they were Formorii work others said that they were of Fey origin but whatever the truth of the matter they were at the same time both impressive and unnerving. It soon transpired that the smaller structure appeared to contain some sort of Oracle but few were those who dared it’s cramped and dark interior to see it’s predictions, still others maintained that this so called Oracle merely showed deeds of yore and thus wasn’t really an Oracle at all. Whatever the truth of the matter it was a strange and powerful device that’s original purpose could only be guessed at.
The larger structure was open to the elements either by design or as some maintained by circumstance as they believed that once over the structure possessed either a roof or second storey or perhaps even both? In daylight it was a pleasant and open place but as darkness fell and the shadows lengthened it became an eerie place full of strange sounds and eldritch light. Indeed, it was soon discovered that as well as being an important site to the Formorii it was also the domain of a Banshee, cursed to wanders its benighted arches seeking who knows what! Distracted as the Factions were by their struggle with the Keltoi it is not surprising that despite some investigations nothing definitive was done about this Banshee and she still roams the area causing dismay to all she encounters.
On that first night a tragedy occurred to the hosts the FirCruthen when their High King Morgan was struck down by assassins in the pay of Malakar the leader of their sworn enemies the Formorii! There was much sorrow amongst the FirCruthen and their allies that night at the passing of High King Morgan as he was a popular and respected leader who had done much to restore the FirCruthen and lead them with intelligence and valour during the recent trying times. The new leader of the FirCruthen was Umrada Cole McCormack known simply as Umrada Cole, he was assisted by both the being known as Annwn Lorn of the ancient race of the Tuatha Da’Nan whom had joined the FirCruthen after they left his home the Great Forest of Erin.
At this Renewal it was decide to revive the ancient Ritual of Renewal that had not been performed for many years. Sadly, both the Vipers and the Steppe Alliance did not participate in this Ritual and many say that in order for the Ritual to work all Factions must participate, others say that after so many years of it not being performed what is the point and yet more say that it is a Ritual that all people of the Continental lands should participate in! Who is right and who is wrong, nobody knows for sure. What is certain is that the Ritual was attempted and whatever consequences that this entails are likely to be felt by all regardless of participation!
A further tragedy struck the FirCruthen later when they suffered heavy losses along with the other Factions when a mission to destroy a centre of the Constructs was undertaken. Despite the heavy losses the strike force was successful in destroying the centre and killing its commander. Many survivors questioned the choice of tactics used on this mission and blamed these for the high losses that they suffered, whatever the rights and wrongs of the tactics used two facts remain, the centre was destroyed but the losses were high. How the Factions proceed in the future against this enemy will no doubt be influenced by these facts. On the third evening an Imperial delegation arrived and spoke at length with the famous mapmaker Iddy DeRanged and his wife Sophia. Soon after that they all departed together presumably for Imperial territories, what ramifications if any this event will have nobody can say. There were also rumours that some of the Swarm were seen at Renewal! It was thought by most these had been defeated several years ago and so what could their reappearance herald?
In order to assess the enemy’s strength many scouting missions were undertaken and some information gained, what was certain now was that the Keltoi weren’t just an army but a whole people looking to settle in Erin. There were also rumours of a Great Triangle, this apparently being the source of the Keltoi power or their means of arrival in Erin, it was decided that this would need to be found and eliminated in order to defeat the Keltoi completely.
Despite numerous scouting missions to attempt to discover this Triangle none of the scouts succeeded in discovering its location or indeed if it existed at all. It was decided to ask the advice of the Amgeara who after all knew of the Keltoi and indeed said that they came from the same lands, after much talk it was agreed that Amharast the son of their leader Amgea would be available to give the Factions help and advice should they need it in the upcoming struggle. There was some concern expressed by Amharast that the Invaders who had driven his people from their lands could not be far behind them and so the Factions should beware of their possible appearance. Once again an attempt to make peace between the Factions and the Keltoi was made by the latter, again using the Wolves as an initial contact point. Despite the far more reasonable terms now being offered on Behalf of their High King Owain ap Kernow by his son Elrand ap Owain once again the FirCruthen refused and were supported by the other Factions preferring to trust in their military might rather than words, especially as it was now clear that the Keltoi had their backs to the sea.
The day after this peace attempt the combined forces of the AlGaia, Jhereg, Lions and Steppe Alliance took the field against the Keltoi army. It was clear from the outset that the Keltoi were fighting with desperation and no little skill but the brave warriors of the Factions put there hard won experience of fighting this enemy to good use and gradually drove them back. The Keltoi deployed many of their heroes in this battle and many have surmised that the majority of these were the sons of the High King himself judging by their similar appearances and references to each other as brother. These proved to be mighty foes strong in both magic and martial skill and many a brave warrior was struck down by them. They worked as teams in their spell casting and fighting techniques and indeed their ability to cast the most effective spells whilst heavily armoured once again made them formidable opponents. Nevertheless, the warriors of the Free Peoples drove the enemy ever backwards and even at one stage seemed to have their leader at their mercy but he escaped magically just when it looked like he was going to be slain along with most of his family and bodyguards. This left the rest of his troop’s leaderless and easy prey for the confident warriors of the Factions.
However, this was not the end of the Keltoi by any means and as they advanced the Factions found their way blocked by another force of Keltoi commanded by the same leader who had earlier seemed doomed. Another hard fight ensued with Keltoi reserves attempting to ambush the Factions in their exposed flanks but it was clear that now the Factions were in the ascendancy and the Keltoi were pushed further and further back and could not replace their troops as they fell.
Finally, they were soundly defeated with all of their leaders falling at last to the brave Free Peoples blades and magic and the way was clear to the final camp of the Keltoi. However, dusk was fast approaching and the Factions were depleted in numbers and magic and so it was decided to fortify their position and await news from the FirCruthen, Vipers, Wolves and the peoples known as the Hei Ravni to see if their combined camps had been attacked by another enemy force. They had not and so it was decided that on the morrow they would lead the final assault on the last Keltoi position which was only fitting as Erin was FirCruthen lands.
The next day dawned and the FirCruthen, Vipers, Wolves and the peoples known as the Hei Ravni took the field for what was hoped would be the final battle to destroy the Keltoi and free Erin from their dominion forever. Again it was a hard fight with the Keltoi fighting even more desperately than before as they truly realised that the future of their entire people lay in the balance, their force this day was definitely commanded by sons of their High King as Elrand ap Owain was in overall command. Despite heroic efforts and the defeat of the Keltoi initial forces it swiftly became apparent that the Factions were suffering greatly especially in their high use of Corporeal magic as the enemy fought with skill and ferocity.
Nevertheless, the enemy was slowly forced back but for some reason the Factions on this day seemed to lack some of the cohesion of the previous day and perhaps sensing this Elrand ap Owain once again offered a peace deal. This move was strongly objected to by at least one of his brothers but in the end Elrand’s authority won out, it was none the less interesting to note that there were severe differences in the Keltoi camp that previously had appeared totally united. The Wolves and their leadership were at that time engaged in mopping up the remnants of the Keltoi forces that threatened the Factions rear and flanks and so played no part in the following startling events. The Amgeara, Amharast was summoned by magical means to ask his advice and to gauge his thoughts on the honesty of this latest offer, he thought that the offer was genuine and that despite everything that had happened he was distant kin to the Keltoi leadership and that they were in their own way honourable. And so the stage was set for an historic meeting.
Umrada Cole, King Hapsburg and Nikolai representing the FirCruthen, Vipers and Hei Ravni respectively agreed to meet with High King Owain ap Kernow to discuss if peace could be achieved without further bloodshed. No doubt they were motivated by concern for their warriors who despite clearly winning the battle were suffering increasing casualties due to their failing healing reserves. They met Owain who was surrounded by many women and children and in a remarkably short and reasonable meeting considering all that had passed between them the last two years agreed a peace deal. The basis of the deal was that the Keltoi would quit Erin for a gift of 100 cattle from Umrada Cole, that they would agree to cease all hostilities with all the Factions in exchange for land offered to them by King Hapsburg to settle in and all captives would be returned to the Factions. It is worth noting that in both these battles the gifts given to the Factions to aid them by the Tuatha Da’Nan and the Fey of the Great Forest were used to great effect along with other Cold Iron Weapons that the red haired Keltoi seemed to be particularly vulnerable to, however the Keltoi were equally adept at dealing with this threat once they had perceived it and many of these weapons and gifts were lost to their magical counter measures.
This was not however the end of the Factions troubles that day for even as the Keltoi left the field some sort of Portal opened up on the Factions left flank and through it poured warriors in red tabards who proceeded to attack the weary Factions! This new threat was identified by Amharast as the invaders who had driven his people from their lands only last year and many noted that there were some similarities between the insignia and dress of these new foes and the Vipers.
Summoning their last reserves of courage and skill the Free warriors drove these new enemies back towards and then into the strange Portal.
After some deliberation Fox of the Garrison mercenaries volunteered to attempt to investigate the Portal, a brave if some may think foolhardy decision. Tying Fox to a rope as some sort of security the assembled Factions looked on in trepidation as he entered the Portal, then disaster struck! The rope came back out of the Portal charred and burned with no Fox attached, what had happened to brave Fox? Moments later he was flung from the portal with great force and could report that there were large number of the new enemy waiting wherever the Portal led to but at the moment they did not look like they intended to pass through it, no doubt mindful that their initial force had been defeated.
Counsel was taken and it was decided to try to close this Portal by an impromptu Ritual lead by Hulda Largensdottir. Sadly, something went wrong with this attempt and whilst the Portal did indeed close there was a backlash of magical energy that knocked everybody anywhere near the Portal down, killed Hulda Largensdottir and almost killed many of the other brave Ritualist’s involved. Some have surmised that maybe the Portal was actually closed by the new enemy or that it was not in fact a Ritual Circle at all, but nobody knows for certain. And so despite elation at the recovery of Erin there was both sorrow for lost comrades and trepidation of this possible new threat as the Factions prepared to depart Erin for their respective homelands, what would 1109 bring to the people of the Free?