The Fall, also known as 'The War of the Legion', 'The War of the Alliance', 'The War of the Realm', and 'The Fall of Civilisation' is what the invasion of the Legion from the far east has become known as, and the subsequent devastation of civilisation. It began when the easternmost fortifications of the Iron Empire were attacked, and lasted twenty years until the final defeat of the Legion's forces at the Last Stand of Starkholm. Countless people died, but it is estimated that no more than 10% of all populations, some nations suffering worse than others, survived the war and subsequent famines and illnesses.
The First Hints
The Legion were an utterly unknown threat to all civilisation when they attacked. They had never been seen before, never even been heard of before, and nobody had any idea where they were from, what they wanted, or who they were. The closest to an indication of their mere existence came from the eastern borders of the Iron Empire, where elven rangers defended the border of civilisation against the trollish onslaught. A sudden influx of attacks coincided with captured shamans making predictions and prophecies anticipating the end of the world. The High Elves quickly suspected that this was no threat from their captives, for their discomfort was easy to see, and several went so far as self-mutilation in their distress.
The elves had little opportunity to explore this, however, for a great Trollish horde would present itself before the walls of the fortification, and declare that they wished to enter the Empire. Not invade - enter. What made this more peculiar was the presence of one of the great Trollish Chieftains, magnificent figures who usually remained deep within the forests and jungles to the east, and were rarely seen by civilised eyes. This Chieftain refused to explain why they wished to enter the Empire, but he did go so far as to proclaim he spoke not just on behalf of himself and his warriors - but also the old, young, and infirm who had made camp a distance away.
Confused, the elves refused his request, and the Chieftain's plea quickly turned to threats. Before long the Trolls were throwing themselves against the barricades in endeavours that were no less fruitless now than they had been for centuries, and the well-entrenched elves defeated them effectively. When the dust settled and the mass graves had been built, a team of rangers were sent to investigate the claim of this civilian camp.
The rangers found the camp, and they found signs it had recently been occupied, but there was not a single living soul or even dead body to be found within the encampment. Perhaps worse, there was no indication that anything had happened to the inhabitants - no tracks, no bloodstains, no signs of violence. It was as if they had all disappeared.
Nothing more would come of this confrontation and mystery, and though the elves remembered, there was nothing more they could do on the subject. So they continued to defend the east, and tried to ignore the howling of the prophecies of the shamans.
The Legion Come
It would be another five years before the oddities in the east reoccurred. Little is known of exactly what happened, because the first indication that anything was amiss was simply that border fortifications and settlements began to go silent. Leyroth dispatched a search party, but not a single one of them returned. Shortly after came reports that it was nothing more than a particularly virulent trollish invasion, and that most of the fortifications had gone silent not because they were destroyed, but because communication lines had been cut off. It is considered likely that this was not a report at all, so much as the assumption of a military commander.
The Empire did not, and could not, anticipate the threat that was to come. A contingent of soldiers was dispatched, of a size and comportment to easily outmatch any trollish horde. What they instead found was a massive army of an implacable, unreal foe, and the soldiers were utterly annihilated. Only a handful of survivors made it back to the Iron Tower to report the true magnitude of what faced the Empire.
Emperor Ainon finally acted as was necessary, and made the call to summon the entire army of the Empire. But the Empire was huge, and the Legion marched in a direct line for Leyroth. They also moved with an unprecedented speed, taking the elves by surprise, as no army they knew of could move across land that quickly. Ultimately it was nothing more than a makeshift force that was gathered at Leyroth, and Emperor Ainon was urged by General Bregolien, the head of his army, to ask the Realm for aid. Ainon refused, though it is unclear if he did not wish to ask his old enemies for help, or if he was thinking only of the immediate term and doubted that the humans could mobilise and reach Leyroth in time, even if they travelled by sea.
Either way the force that confronted the Legion at Leyroth was not enough. The enemy cut through the lines, butchering the elven army by the hundreds, before finally it reached the personal guard of the Emperor and killed them all. This would have been enough to break the elven troops by itself, but it was made worse by what they saw when they fought in close quarters against this enemy. For the first time did they realise that the Legion did not kill all of their enemies - some of them they converted into twisted, horrendous, warped beings that acted as auxiliaries for the Legionaries themselves.
With the Emperor dead, and the full weight of the horrors of what they faced clear to them, the forces of the Iron Empire broke and fled, and the allegedly unconquerable Leyroth fell and burned.
Pleas for Aid
General Bregolien assumed command of the army, and in practice, the whole of the High Elven people at this point, for the Emperor's family had reportedly perished with him at Leyroth. The first thing he did was to send the appeal to the Realm that Emperor Ainon had refused to, asking the High King for help. High King Riagon refused, for matters had unfolded so quickly that the Realm did not understand the full import of what had occurred. The massive size of the Empire made it difficult for humanity to comprehend just how disastrous what had occurred was, and the reports of how horrendous the Legion were proved difficult to believe when they came as distant accounts. The Realm could not comprehend the full threat the Legion faced, and overall cared more at how their old enemy had been brought to its knees.
The elven survivors, and the Imperial forces who had not reached Leyroth in time, began to gather and fled westwards. The elves were merciless in their withdrawal, moving from fortified location to fortified location even if they had to abandon a hundred miles of terrain. They found quickly that they were most effective against the Legion in defence, though considering it was almost impossible to lift a siege once the Legion had encircled them, these tactics did nothing but buy them time to evacuate civilians. Many began to flee across the Narrow Sea and made for Calavria, and there did reports of the war begin to spread.
Their swift withdrawal worked for them in the long run, however, for once they withdrew far enough the Legion could pour past them across the land bridge into northern Norlundar. Now, at last, the Realm came face to face with the Legion themselves, and before the Iron Empire was totally eradicated. The hard terrain made for difficult progress through the mountains, but the disorganised Norls proved little match for the Legion, and reports filtered down to Damryn.
Damryn held little love for the Norls of all of their compatriots in the Realm, but they could not ignore now the threat the Legion posed. They had also learnt considerably more with the first arrival of elven refugees on their shore. As the elves were driven to the westernmost shores of the Empire, again did General Bregolien ask High King Riagon for aid - and this time, Riagon concurred.
The Shores of the Narrow Sea
He and a small army crossed the Narrow Sea to meet with Bregolien, and the two men discussed the situation before them in depth. The final conclusion was that the threat the Legion presented was, indeed, worth setting aside centuries of animosity, as they had begun to understand that the Legion craved nothing but destruction. It was here, in Carnthor, where the two powers had done war for generations, that they signed a treaty which bound the fates of the Realm and the people of the Iron Empire together. As one they would face the threat of the Legion, and they would not rest until the enemy was driven not just away from the shores of the Narrow Sea, but back into the forests they had come from.
This was the document that would form the Alliance of Carnthor, and after it was signed Riagon called for the forces of the whole of the Realm - save the Norls, who fought their own battles in the north, and the Damryans who aided them - to cross the Narrow Sea to make a stand at Carnthor. Yet again these two old enemies stood on the earth soaked in the blood of their fellows and foes, though this time they stood shoulder to shoulder, against a threat which did not care how much they hated one another.
But the defence of Carnthor proved futile. The massive army held its ground against the Legion, and the Legion kept coming. The elves held the vanguard of the army, and it was here that the remainder of the elite of the Imperial Army were wiped out. Seeing this, and seeing the heavy losses the Realm's forces were taking, High King Riagon ordered a retreat across the Narrow Sea back to Calavria.
Into the Realm
Fighting conditions quickly changed on the mainland. The force sent to Carnthor, decimated as it was, had only been made up of whatever troops the nations of the Realm could swiftly gather. Once on their own terrain they could raise more troops and organise more firmly and more efficiently, and train up a more effective fighting force, as the armies of the Realm had not fought in such huge numbers ever before.
But Calavria did not buy the Alliance the time they had hoped for. The Legion were hot on the heels of the retreating army of Carnthor, and Calavria had not known war for centuries. It lacked fortifications, man-made or natural, and so the armies of the Realm barely had the time to regroup and little chance to defend before the Legion marched on. Calavria suffered greatly from this, as there was not enough time for as large a proportion of refugees to make it out of the country as there had been in the Iron Empire, and would be in future conquests.
Meanwhile, the Legion were successfully carving their way through Norlundar. The clans began to gather themselves, but the Ard Ulv rejected the aid of the Gemeshyr as the forces converged at Wulfhould. Despite the losses, internal politics and the distrust of the hated clan could not be overlooked, and the Norls would be defeated, and driven south, into Damryn.
The Legion's advance through Norlundar had been slow and cumbersome, and there had never been formal lines of battle drawn due to the nature of the territory. But as the Legion came south to converge on Damryn, and west to assault Lancereaux, they would find effective border defences, organised and sturdy. However, this meant the Realm were forced to defend themselves on two fronts.
The Crumbling Spires
The morale of the Lancesians was shaky. They had sent a significant bulk of the troops to Carnthor, as the Damryans had seen their attention diverted by the invasion of Norlundar. Although the losses of the two sides were comparable, the Lancesians had lost the most troops in a single battle, save for the Iron Empire. The fall of Calavria came so fast as to leave the Lancesian lords even more uncertain, and they encouraged withdrawal early on.
Count Adhemar Delacroix rejected these calls, and rallied the Lancesians. They would stand firm, he was determined, and force the Legion to fight for every inch of ground they took. This would lead to siege after siege as the Lancesians held their great castles and forced the Legion into slow and arduous warfare. Although it was doomed to fail it certainly won time, and allowed for a great number of the survivors to escape to safer terrain, and for the defenders behind them to make ready.
But they still lost ground. The fall of Lancereaux came with the fall of Rochignac, where Count Adhemar made his stand. He had been reliant upon the forces of Baron Theroux to hold the south and guard the withdrawal of refugees fleeing into Andermark, both so they could prevent Rochignac from being encircled and so they could then return with reinforcements once the refugees were safe. Theroux met harsh weather conditions which slowed his evacuation, and undermined his defence of the south, and instead of marching to reinforce either the south or Rochignac, he instead withdrew his entire force.
Rochignac was swarmed and reported taken. Count Adhemar was killed in the attack, and to make matters worse for Lancereaux, his family were cut down as they fled a month later. This was the end of Lancesian military might in the Fall, and the survivors fled predominantly east to Andermark, though some joined the Elven and Calavrian survivors who went north to Damryn, who still held strong.
Blood and Sand
The Legion forces split into a third front after the fall of Lancereaux. By then they were numerous, from the reinforcements of the assimilated, that they could afford to fight Damryn from the north and south and still pour south into Ibarran. Ibarran had little by way of fortifications and standing army compared to Lancereaux, usually reliant upon its sparse geography as a form of defence, which did them little good against the implacable Legion.
The only way the Ibarrish could defend themselves was by making use of their lightly-armoured mounted archers and caballeros. With their knowledge of the land they could harass and harry marching Legion contingents and slow them down as they were forced to assume heavy defences to absorb the worst of the attacks. And the one weakness of the Legion was their lack of speed, which counted for little when they kept coming, but at the least gave the Ibarrish time to flee and regroup repeatedly.
Ibarran held on for longer than would have been expected through these techniques. It might have held on for even longer if not for the opportunism of the goblins. Exactly what happened is not known for sure, as most Ibarrish survivors had either left the country already or were in the north-west when it fell. But reports came in of the Sahradians making an assault on Santhiago, which forced the Ibarrish to split their forces if they did not wish to be enveloped. Ultimately they were overwhelmed, and the final fate of Ibarran, and the forces of the Legion and Sahradia, was unknown.
Death of the Heart of the Realm
Damryn fought the Legion the longest and the hardest. Ever since the fall of Norlundar they had faced them on a border, and that border had held firm even as Calavria, Lancereaux, and Ibarran fell. But soon enough the Legion was done with Lancereaux, and turned its gaze northwards, to Damryn, the heart of the Realm. Yet the High Kingdom stood steady, and lasted even until Ibarran had fallen.
The Legion had only confronted Andermark by then with a perfunctory force to maintain pressure. The bulk of the entire force, even greater than that which had marched across the Iron Empire, a mere portion of which had defeated even mighty Lancereaux, was now turned towards Damryn from the north and from the south.
Standing strong against such an enemy was all but impossible, but the Damryns clung on for every inch of ground. Cautious planning by High King Riagon ensured that, above all, a route west and south into the Kordurren mountain range would be held, a priority even more important than the preservation of Caer Brennan. And over the months the Damryans were driven further and further back, until they held firm at the stronghold of their people.
For the first time the combined might of Damryn came to bear upon the Legion, and just as the Legion had shattered every enemy before them, they shattered the Damryans. Caer Brennan burned, and the survivors set to flee into the routes arranged along the Kordurren mountains. Amongst these survivors was High King Riagon - but not his family, who had perished in the sacking of the heart of the High Kingdom.
And the Legion marched hot on the heels of the fleeing survivors. So numerous were they, not just Damryans but elves, Norlish, Lancesians, and Calavrians too, that their progress was slow, and it looked like they would be caught up with and butchered. It was then that the High King regarded his enemy, gathered what remained of his elite royal guard, and gave the order for them to charge.
It was an impossible battle, but nevertheless these finest of the Damryan knights came bearing down upon their enemy. Their ultimate fate is unknown, for the refugees fled as the Legion army was stopped in its tracks by the onslaught of the Damryan King and his men. But since within days the Legion marched again, it is presumed that all perished, for there was no escape that could be conceived of.
The refugees fled through the mountains, beleaguered by the Legion behind them and the Yotunaar bearing down upon them. They found no aid or shelter from the dwarves of Kordurren, and the will of the Damryan people was so broken that perhaps all would have perished had it not been for the remnants of the Imperial Army. With the loss of their own home years behind them, their spirits had persevered enough that there was no defeat save death which could weaken their resolve, and it was they who forged the path through the mountains, they who fought off the Yotunaar, they who held the rear against advance Legion contingents. And, safely, the elves saw the survivors of the four kingdoms through the mountains into Andermark.
End of the World
Survivors of all civilised people had finally made their way to Andermark, the western-most point of humanity. All other kingdoms had fallen, and there was nowhere else to go. But all were battle-wearied, even the Anderian army, which had dispatched what aid it could and still been defending its eastern border.
The Andermen attempted to hold the Legion up with their expertise of siege warfare, and holed up within their capital of Fordheim, but the city could not hold for long. The soldiers were too tired and too demoralised to cling on, and broke and fled deeper.
Andermark might never have been saved if it had not been for the Beastkin. Again the desire for survival overcame centuries of hatred, as the Legion cared nothing for the allegiance of those who stood in their way. They set to march straight through the thick forests of Andermark, and were best by the territorial creatures of the Fringe. They did nothing more than slow the Legion down - but every day bought allowed more innocents to be saved.
The Beastkin and Wild Elves did make fleeting contact with the Andermen. It was a strange alliance, for nothing was formalised, or even accepted by the Andermen. The creatures of the Fringe simply sent their message: "We Will Fight". Reports came in soon enough of men and elves bearing witness to how the forest itself would turn on the Legion, and the desperate Alliance was in no condition to turn away aid. First, they let the Fringe fight alone and reaped the rewards. Then it took one military officer in the field who sent in reinforcements when he learnt the Fringe forces in one region wavered, so they would not break and leave him to contend with the Legion alone. And from there it became not an uncommon fight to see the Wild Elves and Beastkin, not living alongside the humans and elves of Andermark, but fighting alongside them.
As always, all they could do was win time. This was the era of the highest incidents of mass suicides as humanity believed that they had lost, that to fight was just to delay the inevitable. Nothing had ever worked against the Legion, even victories in battle had been fleeting as the Legion had simply utilised other tactics, sent other men. There was no indication that anything would happen in the war other than the humans would be pushed to the sea, and either be forced to flee by ship with no destination, or be destroyed.
Prince Mathias Stark of Andermark is credited for the country and the survivors of the Realm and Empire not simply curling up and dying. Somehow he found the perseverance to fight on, and somehow he communicated this optimism and will to the people around him, enough that they endured, and continued to fight.
And still were the forces and civilians of Andermark pressed to the western-most of the great fortified cities of the nation, the birthplace of the first human hero, the first Chieftain of all Andermark, Erik Stark. Starkholm had been named for him and his line, and it was there that the soldiers and civilians came to, the last place where they could hide and huddle.
All that could be done was to hold firm and pray, in what would be known as the Last Stand of Starkholm.