War of the Wastes
Imperial Academicians and foreigners who have observed it have characterized the War of the Wastes as an aggressive campaign by the Black Orc tribes for the purpose of plunder and enslavement. The Vaynorian Empire has, for the most part, maintained a defensive posture, deploying the entire Imperial Army and roughly half of all feudal levies along bases in eastern Dar Hespin, with the Citadel as the linchpin of the defenses.
The War began in the summer of 524 a.C (New Count), and has lasted for 14 years. After suffering major defeats, the Empire has pushed the Orcs back near the original borders and has achieved a fighting stalemate. The Imperial War College has tallied the total costs of the war, up till the Fourteenth Season, as follows:
|Faction||Officers||Regulars||Non-combatants and Irregulars||War materiel||Material losses|
|Vaynorian Empire||491||88,500||19,700||9.445 M talents||21 M talents|
|Black Orcs||350||79,300||33,000||2 M talents (est.)||unknown|
During the first days of the War, many in the Empire believed that the Black Orc aggression was part of a natural and unavoidable cycle; indeed, orcs warbands have been raiding around the Citadel, the Estermarch and around the coast of the Azure Sea for the better part of two centuries. This belief contributed directly to the disastrous results of the Imperial Army during the First Season, as neither the legions nor their commanders were prepared for a protracted action.
The unprecedented ferocity of the initial Orcish campaigns forced Imperial politicians to reconsider their stance. Recently, more extensive scholarship (particularly by Academicians Trevyr of Aldhill and Harrick Cortnay) has revealed at least three proximal causes for the war:
- The violent and uncompromising ideology of Black Orc tribal organization, which (more so than their less-savage kin, Gray Orcs and Red Orcs) places a premium on conquest as a form of both dominance and, ironically, conflict resolution.
- The utter reliance of the Black Orc tribes on tithe-paying serfs and/or thralls
- The draining of the Elspeat Marsh and other earthworks that rapidly increased the agricultural activity in Dar Hespin, the Imperial territory closest to the Wastes.
Note on times and dates
Wars are customarily measured in terms of seasons, a holdover from the time when most soldiers were yeoman farmers and could only serve between harvests of their fields. While most Imperial troops are now professional soldiers, the Army is still entirely dependent on the availability of grain, so the season remains a useful unit to measure military time. Each season consists of roughly 13 weeks of military action. Between seasons, the Army and militia remain in barracks and conduct (normally) only small-unit actions in their duty areas.
There have been five years with no campaigning seasons, i.e. no surplus grain harvests that can be earmarked for the Army and thus no large-scale military actions: (527, 529, 532, 535, 537), two years with two campaigns (526, 533) and one year with three campaigns (530).
The initial Black Orc maneuvers caught the Imperial Army entirely off-guard, and were highly successful at isolating the VI, XI and XII legions stationed in Dar Hespin and The Reach. After several false starts, the main Orc thrust into Dar Hespin was turned back near Hellestrae by the II, III, V, IX and X legions, only to be drawn out beyond their supply lines and trapped in the Citadel. The Empire concentrated on clearing Dar Hespin and reshoring their defensive lines while the trapped legions outlasted two deadly sieges, taking horrific losses in the process. Two large Orc hordes attacked along broad fronts north and southeast of the Citadel, only to be flanked and destroyed, although at great cost. With the discovery and subsequent destruction of the daemonic warlord Krat’ul’shk, the Orc’s ability to muster and manuever large hordes has markedly diminished, although raids-in-force are still a regular occurrence and, while the Empire is quickly approaching war exhaustion, the Orcs seem to have no shortage of soldiers or materiel. The strategic aims of the Empire is currently the creation of a stable front along the newly-drawn Olmar Line, and the protection of Dar Hespin and the supply lines that feed into the Matthias Line of defenses. It is hoped that reaching these goals will turn the three-year stalemate into a permanent one.
|524||First|| Battle of Travoyin Gorge
Battle of the Ford of Axios
|Orcs overrun two defense lines, capture Dar Hespin, raid in strength up to the River Axios|
|525||Second||First Siege of the Citadel||Imperial Army nearly broken—5 legions and 2 full brigades lost, both consuls, High Marshall Steverin Kalemnar killed||First action of the Knights of the Citadel|
|526||Third||Second Siege of the Citadel||Threatened with contravallation , the Orcs lift their siege and break out, leaving 5700 orcs and thralls dead or captured||Matthias Lengel made High Marshall|
|Fourth||Last Orc raids in Dar Hespin||First sighting of Krat’ul’shk|
|528||Fifth||Battle at Lesser Forks||Six new Imperial legions formed|
|530||Sixth||Battle at the Widowmakers||Only major naval action of the War to date||Elves and gnomes formally join the War|
|Eighth||Battle of Extinguish Field||Krat’ul’shk destroyed in single combat by Renna of Haort|
|531||Ninth||“Matthias’ Line” seals off Whitmount and The Reach from enemy incursions|
|Eleventh||Olmar Gladstone killed in battle|
|534||Twelfth||Total Vaynorian casualties reach 100,000|
|538||Fourteenth||Battle of the Fens||Renna of Haort assassinated|