Wednesday, July 10, 2013

You Shall Know Them by the Trail of the Dead - The Witch Armies

They came through the Outlands, boiling over the Darkwall Peaks in their multitude. Huge throngs of undead things and living creatures twisted beyond recognition by dark magics. Rank upon rank of hired soldiers from across the great sea bolstered their numbers. In the van were the Accursed–shambling Mongrels, plodding Golems, loping, gibbering Vargr, lithesome Damphyre, along with their fellows. At their head strode the great usurpers, the Witches of the Grand Coven. Cunning Baba Yaga, mighty Sanguinara, the twisted Chimera, and their sisters led their varied armies over the Darkwall Peaks and into the unsuspecting lands of Morden quick as lightning, taking the unprepared mortals completely unawares and easily sweeping aside the initial, hastily assembled resistance. The Witch armies spread out and the heroes of the Alliance gathered their armies to oppose them. The entrenched forces settled in for a savage war of attrition that would grind on for decades and only really end with the Great Betrayal, when the Grand Coven was broken and the Witch armies scattered to the winds.

The armies that shattered Morden during the long war were a strange and powerful mix of magical and mortal combatants cobbled together from a broad variety of sources. First there were the Accursed, mortal men and women forced or coerced into eternal servitude and made to fight as shock troops and heavy infantry in the van. Behind these mighty and terrible warriors came the banes, once normal beasts twisted into horrible mockeries of their mortal forms by Witch magic. Finally, there were mortal mercenaries—men of negotiable valor from the exotic lands of the Sakurada Shogunate and Nordheim far across the roiling sea. These mercenaries provided cavalry, light infantry, siege infantry, and other more support oriented military tasks that the Witches saw as beneath them or their chosen warriors. Paid in blood-stained gold and promised land, plunder, and power in the lands of Morden, these corrupt men gladly fought shield to shield with the Accursed for a handful of silver.

For decades after the initial invasion, the Witch armies and the forces of the Alliance fought a series of brutal wars with countless smaller skirmishes. Slowly but surely, the Witches overpowered the defenders of Morden and solidified their control over their conquered lands. Despite their power however, the Witch armies were not a unified force. Indeed, the forces of the Witches fought each other as often as they fought against the mortals. Allegiances formed and dissolved as the individual Witches jockeyed for power amongst themselves. This internecine fighting mattered little to the beleaguered defenders however. Few mortals could tell the difference between one army of hideous monstrosities and another despite their individual liveries and banners.

After the betrayal and the sundering of the Grand Coven, the Witch armies scattered to the winds. Most of the surviving banes followed their fleeing matrons back over the mountains. Most mercenaries abandoned the effort as soon as they realized there were no more payments forthcoming. Truly loyal warriors died by the score defending their dying leaders. The few that remained slunk off into the forests and fens of Morden and took to being brigands, highwaymen, and even mercenaries in the armies of the resistance. The Accursed, in particular, were abandoned and forced to find new ways to cope with their transformation. Today, while Morden is still deeply in the thrall of the Witches' power, the once great armies that strode across Morden's plains exist only in story and in nightmare. The scars of old battlefields and the occasional hard-eyed foreign veteran skulking about the countryside are all that bring them to mind.

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