847 YSD – 寒冬死寂 – Dead of Winter
东线战况 - The eastern front
Stefan’s bold and fearless tactics, which had been described as “foolhardy” by some, proved the Bull’s demise. In the first two months of the year 847, no less than seven battles were fought in the wheat fields near Vladikraj and the Cherna hills. The Wolf lost two of them.
Before spring, it was clear the Bull had lost its chance to conquer the Griffin Duchy. Amílcar retreated to Voron Peak, but the Wolf drove him out of the city in a matter of weeks. Defeated, Amílcar ran back to his Duchy, with tail between legs.
But while the people of the Griffin Duchy were ready to hail Stefan as their saviour, they soon realized that the Wolf lord had not actually been defending the Griffin lands from the Bull. No, he simply intended to conquer them for himself.
西线战况 - The western front
In the West, Ivan’s cavalry and Griffin riders kept harassing Enguerrand’s vanguard and support lines, buying enough time for Rowena’s forces to regroup with Ivan’s reinforcements. Tatyana’s sacrifice had not been in vain. Rather than entrenching themselves in Kilburn and risking a war of attrition that would have played in Enguerrand’s favour, Ivan and Rowena decided to intercept the advancing Greyhound’s forces in the open.
The two armies met on the 13 th day of the Night Veil, not far from the small city of Ashwood. The battle lasted 3 days. The losses were heavy on both side, but the allied forces eventually took the upper hand, if only by a narrow margin. Ivan and Rowena decided to push their advantage, forcing Enguerrand to withdraw back behind his own borders.
Enguerrand’s forces having been defeated north and south, the Unicorn Duchy was victorious. Ivan suggested the time had come to cease hostilities by offering peace. But Rowena ignored Ivan’s recommendations, deciding to enter the Greyhound Duchy with her armies instead. Preoccupied by the news he had received regarding the situation in his homeland, Ivan gathered his own troops and began his long journey back east.
冰魔 - The Ice Demons
Temperatures started to drop uncharacteristically throughout the month of the Shining Star. Scholars and weather wizards were all in agreement: winter was not going to be soft this time around. The winter of 847 was in fact the worst Thallan had known in decades, so harsh that even the intrepid Stefan of Wolf was forced to halt his invasion plans.
With incessant snowstorms sweeping across the countryside, trying to venture in the mountainous area where the Griffin’s capital of Eastalon was located would have been suicide. Even Whitemane, in the valley below, had become too risky a target. The Wolf armies instead retreated to Voron Peak, located in a slightly more hospitable region, waiting for the weather to improve. But it was only getting worse, and they waited a long time. Too long.
By early Spider Queen, strange rumours began to reach Stefan’s ears. The few travelers that dared venture in the frozen wasteland the Griffin lands had turned into brought back stories of a monstrous army of “Ice Demons”, descending from the eastern mountains. The stories differed greatly when it came to describing the creatures, but they were all agreeing on one point: they were marching west, towards Voron Peak.
The Wolf lord refused to give credit to these tall tales, believing them to be mere propaganda intended to scare him away from the Griffin Duchy. Five years after the Fourth Eclipse, no Demons could remain on Ashan in such numbers. As for Ivan’s armies, they were still far in the west. Finally, one thing was certain: no Human army was mad enough to travel in such harrowing weather.
He was absolutely right. He had simply forgotten an important fact: not all of Ivan’s subjects were Humans.
On the 22nd Day of the Spider Queen, the “Ice Demons” were at Stefan’s door. Led by Kente, Ivan’s Master-of-Arms, the Orcs of the Whitespear tribe soon taught the Wolf lord the meaning of fear…
Well met, my fellow Shadow Councillors.
It is time for you to learn more about Duke Ivan and his inner circle. As they say in the Greyhound Duchy: “à tout seigneur, tout honneur.” So let’s begin with the one we want to see on the imperial throne, the Lord of Griffin himself.
You shall know that Ivan was the second son of Duke Vassily of Griffin with his lady wife, Ilona, one of Duke Ekhard of Wolf’s daughters. Ivan’s older brother, Fedor, was destined to become the next Duke, while Ivan went to the seminar of Flammschrein, and then to Falcon’s Reach itself, to learn the ways of Elrath. But soon after Ivan’s thirteenth birthday, tragedy struck: both Vassily and Fedor were killed while hunting a bloodfrenzied Wyvern on the eastern borders. Devastated with grief, Ilona retired to an abbey to live the rest of her days shunned from the cruelty of the outside world.
Deprived of this luxury, Ivan had to become the new ruler of the Griffin Duchy. But he always kept a nagging suspicion that foul play had been involved in his father and brother’s deaths, and he kept looking for the truth – which is how I was eventually made his personal Spy Master, after many years of dutiful service to the Griffin dynasty. But that’s another story.
Ivan’s new title meant he had to study the art of the sword and both political and military strategy in Falcon’s Reach. These courses proved more to his liking than theological studies. He became good friends with the soon-to-become-Empress Maeve Falcon, and knew the first sparks of romance with Duke Seamus of Stag’s teenage daughter, Nolwenn – although these innocent escapades were soon obscured by the heavy responsibilities that now befell him as Duke. It is only years later that Ivan met Nolwenn again and could resume his gallant courtship of the Stag lady, although as you already know, a much darker misfortune would once again “eclipse” their relationship, if you’d be so kind as to forgive this rather tasteless pun. Not that this wooing would have necessarily led to a deeper commitment: Ivan refused all plans to marry. In fact, the Lord of Griffin has gained quite the reputation as a ladies’ man, and if he has a weakness, his love for women is it.
In any case, even back in the guiltless days of his youth Ivan had much on his plate: dealing with the family tragedy, walking the long and sinuous path of rule, and working hard to understand the true meaning of being a Duke. As it turned out, he was a natural born leader, and the peoples of Griffin, who had also loved the rather stern father Vassily, doubled their affection and hopes for the son. In Ivan’s first fifteen years of reign, he increased the influence of the Duchy of Griffin with bold and open commercial policies towards the neighbouring realms of the Elves, Orcs and Dwarves, as well as the Free Cities of Hammer Fall, Stormcliff and Listmoor. The Duchy of Griffin had grown wealthier and more powerful than at nearly any time in its history.
When the civil wars of Falcon succession broke out, many saw Ivan as the most intelligent solution to succeed Maeve of Falcon. He was amiable, a proven administrator of state, and possessed a piercing charisma. Though every Duchy could lay a blood claim, and the line of Stag had historically been considered the heir apparent, the choice of Ivan as the successor started gaining momentum, until war broke out. It quickly became ostensible that there would be no peaceful solution and that only the most powerful military leader would rule the bitter remnants of the Holy Falcon Empire. We are gathered in this Shadow Council to ensure this leader is Ivan.