It is the first day of Round 21, Trying Times of Uncertainty, and I, a humble chronicler with free passage across all lands under the Treaty for Historical Preservation of Round 20, begin this report embedded within the Empire. Wherever I look and wherever I go, I see dragons. Earlier this morning I was nearly trampled to death when one landed just next to me. The gust of wind from when it folded its wings down nearly knocked me down the mountainside!
Down below the Dragon-controlled mountains, I see Nomads, Lizards, Troll, and even the rarely seen Artillery pieces being set up.
Spies return with reports of Mushrooms in the Independent lands and uncountable hordes of Ants leading the charge from the Commonwealth.
The battles today have been many and fierce but I feel safe within the Imperial borders. A sense of duty and discipline envelopes the whole society. Even though there are no Orcs here this time around, the Orcish tongue is spoken — with varying degrees of accomplishment — between the soldiers and peasants of the various factions.
Sadly, one of the Dragons made a miscalculation and failed an attack on the squishy Marshlings. The particular Dragon commander has been spotted in one of the taverns up here muttering about useless spies and tactical razes.
I will stay here for one more day before I travel to the Commonwealth.
I woke early in the morning (or was it late night?) to the sound of the Demonic armies departing. With the supply of souls running low, the Archdemon had decided it required time to recompose its militaries for fight on the mortal battlefields.
Taking its place, an Undead army had appeared.
Everyone is worried about the Ants. Three of them are advancing quickly and gaining traction. The whispers among the mercenaries up here in the dragon mountains is they fear the Ants can overwhelm even when all the dragons are at home.
Feeling it crowded up here and preparing for my journey to the Commonwealth, I travelled down the mountains to the hills and plains to inspect the Nomads, Artillery, and Trolls.
On my way down I met with the commander of an Imperial Gnomish force that had just been despatched to battle by the Empress. I chuckled at the sound of the commander shouting in Orcish with a thick Gnomish accent at a worker who was assembling a Catapult facing the wrong way.
Once in the lowlands, the Artillery battalions were still busy settings things up. I think it will be a few days before we see anything from them. I just hope I won’t get blown to pieces once I leave these lands!
The Nomads are a warrior people and it shows. Their Horse Archers are always practicing if they are not out in battle. We have seen them be invaded many times but they show no signs of giving up.
I could soon smell the Troll. But it wasn’t just the smell that caught my attention. It was the brilliance of the bright shining diamonds that, somehow, managed to escape the stench. I didn’t stay long but I look forward to returning here (with a clothes pin on my nose) and see what has come of this gem-crazed Troll.
As I went down to the large harbour, I spotted a Chameleon from the enormous Lizardfolk. He wasn’t very chatty but I understood things are well, despite being invaded twice by the Ants. They have great things planned.
I purchased a ticket and hopped on the next ship to the Commonwealth. I hope all my papers are in order.
My journey to the Commonwealth is over and I spewed across the railings only but a handful of times. Some of the crew said I did surprisingly well for a land-dweller.
As I disembarked, I nodded my head in gratitude at the captain and felt a tremendous sense of relief as my feet were placed firmly on solid ground again.
I was just about to reach into my bag and pull out my purse of Commonwealth coins when I heard the familiar clapping and clopping of Nomad Horse Archers and the winding sound of their arrows not too far in the distance. It was The Greatest Khan who had come to take land from a Gnome whose army never showed up. Typical Commonwealth bureaucracy.
Mere minutes later, as I was counting whether I could afford to stay in the luxurious inn right in the harbour or if I should venture into the forest lands, I was able to witness something I had always hoped to see. Sacred Order! Although their enemy was relatively un-unholy, it was amazing to watch the Holy Warriors, in shining white armour with elegant colourful decorations, march towards whence the Horse Archers had just arrived.
I hitched a ride on a returning lumber delivery cart into the forest lands, where I was hoping to gain an audience with the leader, Gosu, and from there catch a glimpse of the Ants.
It was shortly before nightfall on the third day and we were just approaching the forests, when the ground began trembling slightly. It got louder and off in the distance, I spotted thousands of Ants.
I found a perch and witnessed the green hills and valleys turn black, as if ink was poured over it but it ran off and returned to green. The Ants had marched to war and claimed lands to strengthen their lead.
The Spirit of King Torg — likely named in honour of a legendary Kobold monarch found in ancient tombs about a world not even we historians know whether it was real or merely a very long time ago — has joined the Ants at the top.
The sun is setting already on the fifth day. I received a note from a courier to go to the Department of Applications to receive a letter regarding my application to meet with Gosu.
I rush down and stand in line. It’s a long lunch. Some people carry knapsacks with food and drink.
Meanwhile, the battle is raging on. Most seem to think the Ants will keep the Dragons away – for now at least. Much of the fighting is through proxy wars on Barbarian soil.
The three Ants have been very hospitable. I have tried to learn more about their history but not even the most diligent Worker Ant or smartest Giant Ant seems to be certain.
As the evening was approaching, massive blasts of lightning and roaring thunder appeared out of nowhere. Once — then nothing but silence. A few Sacred Order guards keeled over.
Then two more blasts and against the dimming evening sky, thousands upon thousands of burning cannonballs came raining down over the sacred lands. The Imperial Artillery had finished assembling and the first volleys were being fired upon the Commonwealth. Dozens of soldiers and thousands of peasants died and burned.
The following two salvos were fired on Barbarian lands.
The ruckus caused all nonessential government facilities to close down and we were told to come back the next day.
An uneasy sun rose on the morning of the 5th day. A couple of failed attacks and smaller skirmishes took place in the morning hours. We received word that Dragons had seized vast amounts of land from the Marshling.
Reports have come back saying that the Undead armies have grown strong in just a few days. While they are no match for the Commonwealth’s strongest right now, you don’t need to be a historian of these lands to know that what you can’t kill will only come back stronger and stronger.
We will see if the Sacred Order can form a successful crusade against the Undead.
After a particularly egregious and reckless attack by the Undead armies, the Halfling army was able to invade and claim land not once but twice in one single campaign.
As the sun was setting, Dragons again were seen flying against the Marshling lands and laying claim to the mysterious swamp beasts’ territories.
It’s the end of the day as I write this. I spent the whole day going from department to institution to authority to representative office in hope of having my audition approved.
I suspect I may never be able to sit down with Gosu. Last night, his troops returned from an unsuccessful battle. Not only had it been unsuccessful but reports indicate that they had been completely outmatched by the Nomadic forces whose lands they had hoped to seize with ease.
The battle at the front remains between the Imperial Dragons and Undead and the Commonwealth Ants, Spirit, and recently a Halfling has emerged from the hills.
A pattern is emerging, whereby the Undead will leaves its lands almost defenceless as it seeks to feast on Barbarian flesh and return with a stronger army. The Ants use this opportunity to take land, and when their armies are out, the Dragons are safe to make their move.
Now as I write this, I received word that Gosu had successfully invaded the Marshling and as soon as the troops had been washed and dried, my audience would be approved posthaste.
The smaller but still formidable Sylvan forces were sent out to invade the Imperial Gnome whose Airships have been spotted bombarding and conquering the weaker Barbarians. Recognising the danger posed if the these treasonous Gnomes were allowed to grow much more, Spriggan were sent on a dangerous mission.
The Sylvan was victorious but had only just begun their journey home when over 100 dragons descended from beyond the clouds unto the Dryads and laid claim to a large swathe of land.
Gosu assured me that this was as planned, as he had sent notice to the strongest Ant and the Halfling to invade the Dragon, whose lands likely were now poorly defended.
And so they did. Outnumbered, the few dragons left at home were beaten and hundreds of acres taken from them.
It seems the Empress had prepared for this and dispatched another Dragon to conquer even more land from the Halfling. The response was a successful invasion from the immortal Spirit army and, as soon as they returned, the now enraged Sylvans retaliated against their invader. Their rage continued into Barbarian soil but the Barbarians were able to hold them back.
It was time for me to leave. My audience with Gosu was over and I had a long journey by foot ahead of me to the Independent swamp lands. I am unsure how much I can expect to learn from the Myconids, the Marshlings, and the Growth, but I am sure that it will be interesting.
It is – or rather would be – day 15 (if such a thing could exist) and I am writing this from my sickbed as I sail on one of Armada’s new Frigates to safe harbour. I lost most of my notes from the time spent with the Myconids, Marshlings, and Growth so I will to by best to summarise the final days of this chapter.
After I arrived in the Independent lands, the Marshlings greeted me and I was able to communicate with them with nearly no difficulties. Their grasp of the Commonwealth tongue was good and where their grasp failed, they made do with Orcish or gelatinous whispers which, quickly, I became used to.
They took me to the organic tissue spread across the lands they called their Queen. I knew it was a Growth but my attempts to speak with it failed. It seems the Marshlings had figured out a way to coordinate with them but I sheepishly bid farewell to the Amina.
On my way out of the swamp lands and into the forests, I came upon the Myconids. I sat down in the shade by a tree and I remember a dozen or so Psilocybes came up. One was coughing and put their arm around me. A hazy cloud enveloped me and my last clear memory is taking a deep breath.
The next moments, hours, and days all flow together into a cascade of wild and undulating colours, shapes, and patterns. For brief moments at a time, I would reconnect with my flesh and bones before my mind would wander off into the dreamscape. I managed to scribble down a few noteworthy events and conclusions.
The Dragons grew strong and at one point, one saw an opportunity to risk it all and invade an Ant. War was declared and lightning bolts shattered parts of the Ant’s walls. One Dragon swept in and weakened the Ants defences and another Dragon roared down and conquered an up until that point unmatched amount of land. The response from the Commonwealth was swift and coordinated. The Dragons had stretched their wings but overstretched their defences.
The mighty cannons of the Artillery would pound at the Barbarians and then lay silent for days. Reports from the Commonwealth speak of a Halfling spy who was caught in the Artillery gem storage rooms and, showing no mercy, the Artillery fired its entire arsenal at the spy’s homelands burning all but a thousand surviving peasants.
Shortly after my arrival to the Independent, the Mountain Trolls with the enormous diamond mines started moving their mountains and grew at an unprecedented speed. Never before have stronger troll warriors been seen on these lands and the Empress will surely have learned much from this experiment for future battles.
The Growth Queen grew and grew. And under her rule, the Myconids thrived but they grew greedy and helpless. The magical illusions from the Psilocybes were not enough to keep the Ant warriors away and many times in the final days, the forest would fill from side to side with enormous Ant armies.
And it was in the end they, the Ants, who stood victorious. With the support of Halfling and Spirit, the Dragons had not been able to change the outcome of the round.