The Invasion Begins
In 561 CY, the mountain orcs came down from the Rakers in force led by Gergash and the Death Moon tribe. Gergash led his horde north of Spinecastle, skirting the Loft Hills, where he was joined by Degtra, an ogre mage leading her clan of ogres and gnolls. In 558 CY Degtra had wrestled away the Loftwood Gnolls rule from their Pack-master and allied herself with Gorsh. With their new allies in tow, they headed straight to Johnsport to lay siege to the city. Gregash made sure the defenders of Spinecastle knew of his sizable force moving through the area to lure away troops from there, as per Gorsh's instructions. The trick worked, and a day later, Marquis Clement had mobilized Spinecastles heavy infantry and cavalry and sent them in pursuit of Gergash's horde. In addition to the regular military, nearly all of the Knight Protectors who survived the persecutions of Ivid I and fled to the Bone March back in 443 CY accompanied them. The army was under the Command of a Knight Protector named Arnald Stermorn.
Two days after Sir Stermorn had departed Spinecastle, Breka, with his Vile Rune orcs and allies descended out of the Rakers. Breka sent several smaller orc tribes into the March to disrupt any rallying of forces from the March's other counties in response to Clement's call to arms. Then Breka left the siege of Spinecastle to his trusted ally, Warlord Kekvar, and his hobgoblins. At the same time, he took the Vile Rune tribe in pursuit of Sir Stermorn's forces.
With Sir Stermorn in pursuit, Gergash, left a complement of orcs behind with Degtra's ogres and gnolls at the bridge over the Weldren river. Degtra was not pleased by this turn of events. The plan was for Gergash to stop and engage the pursuing forces allowing for Breka's horde to catch up and pin the Bone March forces between them. This left Degtra with an army of roughly equal in size to that of Sir Stermorn's, but the ogre mage had no illusions that her forces were not enough to engage Stermorn's army of highly trained and disciplined soldiers and knights in open combat. Calling upon her magical powers, Degtra summoned thick fog to slow Stermorn's forces enough so that Breka's horde could catch up in time to join the fray. Eventually, the handful of mage's accompanying Stermorn's army was able to clear the fog, but by then, they realized that they were caught in a trap.
Outnumbered five to one Stermorn, attempted to break free, heading north to cross one of the smaller tributaries of the Weldren river. Still, his heavy infantry moved far slower than the humanoid hordes, and Breka was able to get large numbers of goblins ahead of them. The cavalry easily forded the tributary and fought their way through the goblins but with heavy casualties. The infantry, along with the bulk of the Knight Protectors, formed ranks and attempted to fend off the horde of humanoids but were slaughtered to a man.
Now across the river with a much smaller force, Stermorn attempted to make his way back to Spinecastle, but encountered the first of many surprises. Breka had a ragtag collection of notorious mercenaries who had been hired away from the Counts of the Bone March guarding the eastern approaches through the Loft hills and the Kalmar Pass. The mercenaries were fewer in number than Stermorn's remaining command, but they delayed them enough for the gnolls and goblins to close the gap. Stermorn's cavalry was fighting in the Loft Hills' rocky terrain which was ill-suited to cavalry, and with many wounded. Attempting to push through to Spinecastle could spell disaster, so he retreated into the Kalmar Pass, and made for Ratik. Stermorn's hope was to regroup there and petition Ratik for assistance.
The Sacking of Johnsport
While Breka and Degtra dealt with the army of the March, Gergash closed in on Johnsport. By the time he arrived, the gates were sealed and the garrison on full alert. While vastly outnumbered, Johnsport had sturdy walls, and the defenders expected relief from Spinecastle, relief that would never come. So, when Gergash's horde bivouacked around the city and began to construct crude siege engines, the city's morale was still high. The first few forays of orcs sent against the walls were easily repulsed, but these were merely probing attacks meant to determine the weakest point of the defenses. Still, the siege might have lasted for a prolonged time if Gorsh had not arrived to personally take up command.
Gorsh's first course of action was to raid the docks. Sending in small groups in canoes, they set ablaze several ships and a portion of the docks. And then using several screened catapults, he began bombarding the city with diseased corpses and ritually sacrificing prisoners that had been captured from the surrounding countryside. In response, minor riots broke out as the populace tried to escape on the few remaining ships that were making ready to set sail from the city. Then widespread panic erupted when news of the defeat of the Spinecastle army made its way to the city through the few ships that layed anchor there.
With the hysteria at a fever pitch, Gorsh summoned some earth elementals to weaken the walls and then sent in the horde. The defenders held on desperately, but as soon as the orcs had breached the walls, the slaughter began. More than half of the population was slaughtered, and the remainder enslaved.
The fall of Spinecastle
With the defeat of Spinecastle's standing army in the field, and without any leadership to organize the levies from the counties, Spinecastle was alone. Kekvar's hobgoblins had seized the city, taking many captives, but the garrison had fallen back to the castle at the mouth of the pass overlooking the city. Well provisioned and with a garrison of experienced soldiers hardened from fighting, not just the humanoids but also against the seasonal barbarian raids, Marquis Clement was confident that some relief would come from the Great Kingdom. He knew that Sir Stermorn had retreated to Ratik and was marshaling aid there as well. Even when Breka's horde arrived joining the Hobgoblins, Clement felt comfortable in defending the castle against them. However, watching the wanton sacking of the city below them was disheartening. All the defenders in the castle had loved ones or friends that were not able to make it into the castle before the gates were sealed.
Unlike Gorsh, Breka had no high-level casters amongst his horde. Still, it didn't matter, because Breka had something even better, the plans to the network of secret passages that honeycombed the bluff upon which Spinecastle sat. During Breka's time spent in Spinecastle as a mercenary, he had become friends with several disenfranchised members of the city elite. Many families in Spinecastle still supported the Bone March's total annexation by the then Northern Province, and they despised the rumblings of independence that was common at that time. Through his association with these Aerdy patriots, Breka gained the necessary information he would need to topple the fortress and ensure its downfall.
After reinforcing the castle's hobgoblin siege, Breka gathered his Iron Fangs along with his most competent orc tribesmen and using secret tunnels infiltrate the castle. In the hour before the dawn, Breka and his Iron Fangs boiled forth into the castle, totally surprising them as Iron Fangs and orcish tribesmen emerged from secret passages. The main objective was to open the gates, which they did, allowing the rest of the horde and hobgoblins into the castle. What followed was the complete annihilation of all the defenders, Marquis Clement, among them.
The Rest of the Bone March Falls
With the fall of Spinecastle and Johnsport, the only resistance to the orcs was the handful of small armies of the Counts and lesser nobles dotting the countryside. These small armies had they even been able to combine their total strength was only a fraction of the numbers. In addition to these small personal armies were the druids of the Circle of the March. Most significant of these small armies belonged to Count Standun, ruler of Blemu County, who attempted to organize the forces of the remaining counties into a cohesive force. He was joined by only a handful of the lesser nobility before being forced to flee. This ragtag army was caught by Orcs of the Death Moon tribe while attempting to cross the Tessar Torrent and smashed.
With Spinecastle in the hands of the Vile Rune tribe and Johnsport in the hands of the Death Moon tribe, both factions hurriedly rush to claim the rest of the March before the other could. Breka's horde spilled out of Spinecastle in the northwest of the Bone March, enslaving and capturing any settlement they encountered. Likewise, Gergash and the Death Moon tribe moved southwest from Johnsport following the Tessar Torrent capturing and enslaving. This left only the County of Knurl in the southwest of the Bone March unconquered. Knurl at the time was known as a wicked place where bandits and shady mercenaries operated out of, and had ties to many orc tribes, in particular, Breka and the Vile Rune tribe. Breka intended to turn Knurl into a vassal and left them alone as he chased down the elusive refugees that were being collected by members of the Circle of the March druids. Gergash and Gorsh had other plans for Knurl and assaulted the county. Fortunately for the new Countess of Knurl, Countess Salvie, Degtra, and her knolls began fighting with the orcs left behind in Johnsport to control the city. Gergash and Gorsh abandoned the assault and hurried back to deal with this new problem never to return that far west into the Bone March again.
Part 3 of the Cursed Invasion coming soon.