Lands of Autumn: The Riverlands and the Bitter War Pt. I

Between Gal’Alor and Karaash the proud lie the contested territories of the Riverlands, where the river Sela travels from the Hungry Sea and splits into a thousand tributaries, ponds, lakes, meres and swamps. Its bountiful fields once produced grain for the hungry multitudes of Karaash and Gal’Alor alike, but now they are left fallow. The Riverlands are a war zone, a game board for two mighty empires to play out their ambitions and quench their thirst for blood.

For over a century, the armies of the two powers have fought bitterly over the territories, taking villages only to lose them again as the weather shifts abruptly and the rivers overflow, washing away men and materiel. The population of the Riverlands has been decimated by decades of predation, famine, plague and brutal conflict. The conflict shows no signs of abating.

The Hosts of Great Gal’Alor:

Gal’Alor is a nation of merchants, a ruthless meritocracy where only the most ambitious and cunning survive. The Merchant Princes of Gal’Alor are loath to do the fighting themselves however, and thus the armies of Gal’Alor consist mostly of sellswords and slaves. Some of the more prominent mercenary companies may be found here.

The average Gal’Alorian company is a rag-tag band of lightly armoured sellswords, all of different backgrounds, with a diverse assortment of killing tools, ranging from pilfered swords and pikes to simple farming implements. They are distinguished by their ornate masks, usually of iron or pewter, for no Gal’Alorian reveals his naked face to strangers, proclaiming him a slave. Sellswords are usually 0th level fighters, with 1st or 2nd level sergeants and lieutenants wearing chain and cruelly hooked swords and bucklers. The captains of such a force are 3-5 level. About 35% of mercenary companies will employ war hounds, usually armoured in chain. Troop class tends to be Below Average to Fair.
They are prone to looting and desertion and hated by the native Riverlanders for their habitual atrocities against civilians. Though they will occasionally take up arms against their comrades on behalf of Riverland warlords or Gal’Alorians seeking to persue a personal vendetta against their countrymen, the Karaashi consider the use of mercenaries to be a cultural and religious taboo. Morale 7.

Gal Alor makes good use of slave troops, particularly when fortified locations need to be stormed or defences need to be probed. These are often chained together by the dozen and equipped with spears and given little in the way of protection. Slave masters armed with cruelly barbed whips and crossbows drive them forward into the jaws of the enemy. Slave troops are 0th level, Slave masters are usually 2nd level. Troop class varies from untrained to below average. It is considered a habit among Gal’Alorian generals to open each battle with slave troops in the frontline, and it is considered an ill omen to fight without them. 15% of Gal’Alorian slave battalions have the wealth to afford the services of the Purple Guild, who provide them with alchemical concoctions that render them immune to pain and fear, causing them to function as Berserkers. Morale 5 or 12.

Gal’Alor is despised by all for employing the hated and feared Sial-Atun, religious mercenaries renowned for their cruelty and fearlessness. The Sial-atun favour great warpicks, scimitars, punching daggers, longbows and, of course, their bare hands. Sial Atun wear scale mail, usually plated with precious metals, and open-faced helmets that reveal their mutilated features and cold, arrogant gaze to the foe. When they enter the fray, Sial-Atun take pains to inflict grievous injuries and mutilations upon their foes, and many a company has broken in the face of their onslaught. Sial-Atun tend to be at least 3rd level, with officers 5th-8th level. Sial-Atun commanders are rarely seen, but fireside stories speak of warriors bedecked in armour of gold and precious gemstones, armed with razorsharp steel swords of masterwork quality, and the sepulchral voices of the ancient dead. Sial-Atun trigger a morale check upon human adversaries any time they enter combat. Morale 11. Sial-Atun are invariably of Excellent, if not Elite quality.

A rival to the prowess of the Sial-Atun may be found in the Sons of Morat. Devoted to the nebulous entity known as Morat, the Sons are considered an Ill-omen by Gal’Alorian and Karaashi alike. The crueller (87%) of the Gal Alorian Merchant Princes favour the use of Sons as executioners, torturers and police force, using the threat of them to keep their other troops in check. Sons are 1st level, with officers reaching 3-5th level. Always armed in full plate mail and with great swords. Trigger a morale check upon entering the fray. Troop quality varies from Good to Excellent. Morale 12.

Rumours persist of the unstoppable warriors of the Purple Guild, kept seperate from the bulk of the forces and only employed on the harshest of battlefields.

Additional notes: Mounted warfare is very impractical in the Riverlands, as the moist fields and sinkholes can easily cause a well-ordered cavalry charge to break. The small horses of Gal’Alor are ill-equipped to deal with the terrain. Since the fierce Kresh cavalry of the Karaashi does not suffer from this problem in the slightest, major engagements between the two forces usually result in the Gal’Alorians fielding large contigents of pike-men and halbardiers.

War machines: Gal’Alor relies heavily upon warmachines. Wrought with the alchemical/engineering secrets of the Purple Guild, the weapons described below are but a sampling.

The bombards of Gal’Alor allow them to garrison the many towns of the Riverlands and hold them against forces many times their number. The poisonous alchemical alloys of the cannon ensure that it explodes in a cloud of corrosive gas upon impacting its target, making the area hazardous for hours afterward.

A potent weapon in the armory of Gal’Alor is Nethrene, a violet gas that causes strange reactions in those that inhale or come into contact with it. Those affected by Nethrene act as though possessed, shriek in dead languages and attack the nearest living creature with a suicidal fury, often persisting in their assault long after fatal wounds have been inflicted upon them. There are reports of soldiers fighting on without a head for several minutes. If it is not stopped by injury, anyone afflicted with Nethrene can live up to 48 hours before they dissolve in a puddle of protoplasm, utterly spent. Nethrene has a dimished effect on the corpses of the recently slain, and there is only a 10% chance a corpse will animate under its influence. It has become standard practice to burn any corpses of those afflicted with Nethrene, even if they seem dead or disabled.
Nethrene must be kept in special airtight ceramic cannisters and is usually deployed from a distance, though some of the more ambitious commanders favour their use in engagements, where they are thrown at the enemy in the manner of grenades.

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