The Summer Heroes
The Sorian Empire Arrives
The Second Military Decree of the Lido Palace was issued as a direct result of the eastward expansion of the Sorian Empire. Since the Empire had swept away the troll Zacthar Kingdom in 58 BR, the last large impediment to the Empire’s expansion had been removed. Rather than massive gains through territorial conquests, however, the Empire expanded slowly, as new settlements were planted and existing cities incorporated—by treaty or the sword.
By 303 BR, it was entirely clear that the Sorian Empire’s gradual expansion was eventually going to ensnare Ystria and the Second Military Decree was issued. The anti-non-human racism exhibited by the Empire was much less pronounced in eastern Orem, as the Empire moved farther and farther from Soren itself, but ongoing conflicts with the nomadic centaurs of the plains began in about 307 BR.
The centaurs proved a resilient foe, as their nomadic nature left little for the Empire to destroy or conquer, and their hit-and-run tactics proved problematic for the imperial armies. In 309 BR, the Empire turned its attention to the “civilized” areas of eastern Orem, and a delegation was dispatched to Ystria requesting its surrender.
The Battle of the Moonlight Veil and the Siege of Ystria
Baffled by the request, since there were no reports of Sorian armies in hundreds of miles, King Dandolo IV rejected the request and threw the ambassadors out of the city. Five days later, several Sorian legions assaulted the city under the cover of darkness and a tremendous thunderstorm. Though lacking in significant naval forces, the Sorians were able to land on several of the Ystrian islands before being noticed. After about an hour of brutal combat, the storm suddenly passed and the moon came out again. Their geographical and tactical advantages largely restored, the Ystrians threw back the imperial assault after several more hours of bloody combat.
In truth, the Sorian legions—under a rebellious commander intent on seeking his own glory by taking the city in a surprise assault—had gone ahead of the main Sorian army. The loss for the Empire was significant, but by no means devastating. The rest of the legions— seven times the number that had fought at the Battle of the Moonlight Veil— arrived at Ystria about three weeks later.
A protracted siege then began, and lasted for two and a half years. Ystrian defenses were generally light, but the logistical problems of conquering the city itself were significant, and since the first Military Decree the Ystrian army’s archers had quickly become famous for their skill. Aided by the dis-united centaurs of the plains, as well as the Mamion Centaurs, who constantly harassed the Sorian legions while they foraged for food or assaulted their messengers, Ystria was able to prevent the Empire from tightening their stranglehold. The further difficulties of starving out a city capable of feeding itself from the sea made the siege all the more problematic for the Empire.
In 312 BR, the Imperial commander was replaced by Lomard the Beast, a high-ranking military commander dispatched from Soren itself to deal with the problem. Lomard was widely feared—and rumored to have more than a little demonic blood in his heritage, though this did not trouble his career much—and was reported to be about seven feet tall. The new commander was well known for his tendency to solve military “problems” through brutal and devastating frontal assault. Under his command, the massive bridges the imperial army had begun constructed were completed, and the Sorians began a two-front campaign against Ystria.
The previous commander had been largely unwilling to risk men in the forests to hunt down the Mamion Centaurs, so Lomard employed a far more straight-forward approach and began to use the imperial alchemists to simply burn the forest down. This slow-but-certain tactic gradually destroyed the centaurs’ capability of functioning near the imperial encampment, and centaur pressure on the army was significantly reduced. With his eastern flank more or less secured, Lomard launched a full assault on Ystria. Previously unable to get close to the city without being deluged by hails of arrows, the Sorians managed to take several islands at tremendous cost.
The assault continued for six more days, but the Ystrians proved far more resilient than Lomard anticipated. Lomard’s fearsome tendency to lead troops into battle himself backfired, as the Ystrian troops eventually began targeting him directly. On the sixth day of the assault, Lomard was grievously wounded in combat. Imperial morale faltered, and the Empire’s troops largely withdrew, though they remained in possession of the islands they had initially captured.
Losses on both sides had been tremendous, and the two forces settled into a kind of stalemate, with the Ystrians unable to reclaim their entire city and the Empire unable to press forward. Further imperial reinforcements arrived two weeks later, but Lomard was given explicit instructions to bring the siege to a favorable close within three days. Exhausted by the war and horrified that the imperial troops seemed to be never-ending, King Dandolo IV sent a peace delegation to Lomard’s camp.
In 312 BR, the Siege of Ystria ended with the capitulation of the city. Because of the unsettled nature of the siege itself, Dandolo was able to command very favorable terms, modeled after those given to the city of Darrova. It is said that Lomard agreed to these terms only because of the fevered state of his mind (his career with the Empire continued, and he died in battle nine years later, having achieved a body-count never equaled in the Empire since). Under the terms of the surrender, Ystria was to pay formal tribute to Soren every year, the Ystrian monarch was to become a client-king of the Empire, and a company of Ystrian archers would be required to serve in the Sorian army in perpetuity. In return, the city would remain semi-autonomous, imperial troops were disallowed from entering the city itself, and the Empire was to respect the borders of centaur lands, as agreed upon in the Centaur Concordat of 47 BR.
Next: Imperial Ystria