The Summer Heroes
Reeling from their respective defeats, the Empresses withdrew their shattered armies in an attempt to consolidate and save the cores of the eastern and western halves of the Empire. Alyphia’s remaining forces successfully executed a retreat, as the orcs and ogres busied themselves with an orgy of looting, sacking, and burning in the city of Auxerre. Deilia’s forces were not so lucky, and the orcs and ogre forces pursued them mercilessly, in what is now called the “Thunderous Pursuit”.
The Thunderous Pursuit lasted for weeks; the orcish hordes utilized a large number of drums, magically enhanced to carry their sound longer distances, to keep up a storming, terrible racket and prevent the fleeing Imperial troops from getting any rest whatsoever. The trail of the Thunderous Pursuit is still identifiable, as the weary Imperial troops began shedding their armor and other gear, and pieces of it can still be found. Finally, after bleeding numbers for several weeks and unable to reach the safety of the Lakelands, Deilia rallied her troops and fortified them in and around the ancient keep of Sulla (usually known as the “Lonely Watchtower” because of its “lonely” position on a hilltop in a relatively-unsettled area).
The Battle of the Lonely Watchtower raged for three days and proved to be even more catastrophic for the Empire than the defeat at the Verangian Forest. Casualties among the orcs and ogres were extremely heavy, but the Imperial forces were cut down entirely, as was the Empress. A relief army that had marched out from the Lakelands to rescue the tattered Imperial forces arrived three days later. Horrified by the carnage, they began an attempt to locate the Empress and any surviving troops. Realizing that the orcish hordes could not be far away, the attempt was abandoned and a retreat was ordered, but the orcs intercepted the relief army and wiped it out, too.
With so much of the Imperial Army’s hierarchy dead and the bulk of the Army itself wiped out, the military of the western Empire was thrown into chaos. Deilia’s son, Antonian, succeeded to the throne, but was unable to bring order to the government. The Dycastery, locked in a bitter debate over whether to withdraw the remaining legions to Soren or to dispatch the troops stationed in the interior of the Empire to the Lakelands, paralyzed the government and prevented Antonian from making any significant decisions. By the spring of 837 BR, the provinces of the Lakelands had been overrun, and citizens and troops were fleeing west to Soren.
In the east, Alyphia’s decision to withdraw her remaining forces to Hyperion backfired, as the orcs laid siege to the city and tied down the bulk of the eastern armies there. Free to act, the orcish hordes savaged the eastern Empire, though they did not bother with Darrova— for, as the “City of Gates”, its defenses were significant— nor were Ystria and the surrounding environs harassed, as the centaurs proved exceptionally effective at countering the orcs. Other cities, however, were not so lucky, and many, including Gwent, were sacked and burned.
Next: The Empire Aflame