Following the incident in the waters near Penderona that saw General Tonsior receive his first major defeat in the war, the Torian forces had no choice but to regroup back at the capital and prepare for a campaign on land. The battles up along the coast had been overwhelmingly successful until the sea battle of Penderona, which saw forces from the Saibhrean Isles come to the aid of their allies in Penderona. Even though the loss was tremendous, Tonsior’s forces took back with them Baron Siabahn, the leader of Penderona as their captive. Soon, the stage would be set for the final leg of 32 years of conflict on Caelon.
The Path of War
By the springtime, the Torian Army had gathered enough resources and troops to launch a full-scale campaign across the land. The army had one message that was heard loud and clear as the land echoed with the reports of all of the cities that had fallen along the coast the prior year: lay down your crowns or die. The time it took Tonsior to secure enough fresh troops from Torian-controlled lands, along with the bickering uncertainty and delays of the council would prove a powerful weapon against Tonsior’s army, but his might would be shown in a most terrible fashion in the days ahead.
The Torian Army knew that there could be no victory for them unless they made up ground from all they had lost in the decades before. The first milestone on the general’s path of reclamation: Ismar and Shalona.
When General Tonsior was away in the Southern Tribelands, Ismar and Shalona had both come under the control of King Eldrio Moro of Ismar, a failure of the Torian commander who agreed to duel for the right to claim autonomy. When Torian forces lost, the kingdom of Ismar was born, and Shalona, too, would fall under the control of Ismar’s realm. Since then, the blood feud had died down between the two cities, and they were thriving as an independent kingdom on Caelon.
General Tonsior knew that in order to truly win the war, they would need to reclaim lost ground. However, after the navy assault on the coast several months before, word had begun to spread that their enemies were beginning to align themselves against the Torian command. This included Caslin, the city in the far northeast coast of Caelon, which had been given to Queen Casli by the council. General Tonsior believed that for Torian control of the Caelon to be secured, no monarch could stand as equal.
The strategy split the army in two parts. One third of the army would head north through the mountain valleys, rallying further forces from all of the Torian establishments along the river, starting with Alestino, Esken, Cinoca, Colena, then Sorbia, and onward to Becio with the ultimate goal of forcing Caslin to surrender with a show of force that Queen Casli could not deny. The gifts that she inherited from the First Son were not as proficient in the skill of battle, so General Tonsior thought that his army could simply overwhelm her.
The rest of the army marched westward with their eyes locked on Shalona and Ismar.
The strategy went into motion and the army marched on. The first stop on the path westward was Tarlia, the major trade hub west of the White Walled City. The City Lord there welcomed Tonsior’s army onto the mesa, a strong strategic location and the home of the Sky Seat, which would serve as Tonsior’s headquarters for this part of the campaign.
From the safety of the Sky Seat, Tonsior sent out emissaries westward, not only to Shalona and Ismar and all cities on the road to them, but also to Khar, Munos and Dorleng, three of the coastal cities attacked in the navy campaign, letting all of them know that Tonsior’s Army would be coming through. The message carried was that any city that did not show allegiance to the Torian cause would be decimated entirely. The demand was for the immediate opening their gates for Torian forces, resupply, and for able-bodied men to take up arms and join the ranks at Tarlia.
Of the settlements that responded to the emissaries, the first to deny the request was the city of Boliara, a smaller fortressed river city outside of Ismar territory, but with a strong affiliation to the kingdom. Boliara rejected the request, stating that it would jeopardize their trade interests with Ismar, and that they would rather remain officially neutral. This response gave General Tonsior a clear first target for his army.
The forces marched the 40 miles from Tarlia and stood at the gates of Boliara, surrounding the city. Once again the proclamation was made: open the gates and surrender or perish. Boliara chose to make a stand, fully aligning with Ismar. Their bravery -or some say foolishness- would prove fatal.
Before any more words were spoken, the walls shook and the foundation cracked. In seconds, the fortressed city would be left defenseless, troops spilling in from all sides of the downed battlements. In no time at all, the city ceased to be a defensible location, and it was a massacre. The city would be left so destroyed that nothing would ever be rebuilt on its site.
The message was clear at this point: no more mercy.
Left with no choice at the news of Boliara’s total destruction, Renia, Riveni and Adrio all were forced to surrender to Tonsior’s demands.
The Queen’s Move
As word reached Caslin that a force was building that was aimed their way, Queen Casli had to choose a path going forward for the good of her people. Although her forces paled in comparison to the Torian Army, her wit and charisma still served her well. Knowing that the army was coming, she sent two couriers out – one to the Torian Army and one to the people of Penderona and the Saibhrean Isles. To the Torian Army, she sent a reminder of the contract that was set with the Torian Council, stating that she was willing to meet personally with their leaders to discuss the legal matters without bloodshed. To Penderona, she gave up the position and size and strength of the army pursuing her.
The Battle of Ismar
It wasn’t long before Tonsior’s army was at the gates of Ismar. This time, Tonsior’s forces far outweighed the strength of Ismar, so under no condition were they willing to bargain. As they waited for the reply from King Eldrio Moro about relinquishing his throne and all assets to the Torian command, General Tonsior grew impatient.
Standing at the front of the line, General Tonsior bent down and touched the ground, which shook as it had many times before in his long and bloody career. Archers stood along the walls of the city and aimed at him, unleashing a hail of arrows that very nearly met their mark, until the ground rose up in front of him, blocking the shots. Next, the infantry charged out of the gate, safely out of range of falling debris that Tonsior’s gift would have attempted to crush them under. The move had prevented the immediate destruction of the castle, but now the soldiers were all alone against overwhelming odds.
Soon, the battle commenced into an all-out melee. Without being able to shelter, the Ismari army was left vulnerable. However, with the forces all intermingled, it restricted Tonsior’s ability to use his powers over the earth for fear of damaging his own forces.
Battle horns sounded soon after. Shalona’s forces, along with that of many more of the northern settlements such as Gelgadongo, Vestilla and Olenos, rode to battle against Tonsior’s forces. It became clear that in Tonsior, the feuding governments had found a demon to unite against. While still outnumbered, the mayhem that found the battlefield outside of Ismar provided less advantage for the Torians than what was first expected.
The battle raged on until King Eldrio Moro and General Tonsior met in the middle. Both men possessing the Gifts of the First Son, and therefore cousins, they were formidable forces on the battlefield, even if it was too dangerous for them to fight in the midst of their other troops. They clashed and met blades, like forces of nature at odds with one another. As they fought, they moved further and further onto the edges of the battlefield, away from their men. Each hoped to gain the advantage over the other by being able to use their abilities.
Soon, they had met in a section of the battlefield behind the main forces, and the full might of their Gifts met one another. Tearing the very earth apart, the two of them vied for superiority over the ground below their feet. Boulders were flung, chasms were cracked into the earth and soon the two men stood at opposite sides of the resulting enormous pit. Bloodied and exhausted from expending so much energy, they created a bridge of shale rock upon which they would clash for the last time.
The two men fought viciously, but ultimately the hardened experience of the General and his years of fighting won against King Eldrio. Slashing the King’s throat, he kicked him from the high place into the pit below. General Tonsior had won, but his victory was short-lived.
As the general crossed the shale bridge to reach his men once again to claim victory, the rock cracked below his feet, slamming his head against the side and throwing him into the pit where he, too, met the end of his life.
Shortly after realizing their general had been defeated, the Torian forces decided to retreat as they were pinched from three sides. They headed West in order to reach Dorleng, where ships were waiting for them.
The Ambush and the Terms of Peace
Suffering a narrow defeat but losing their general in the process, the Torian Army went to Dorleng to lick their wounds and to board ships back to the White Walled City. As they sent each ship, they did not expect what awaited them. A vast Saibhrean fleet were there, a short distance from the White Walled City. The soldiers were met with vicious attacks, and at least seven Torian ships were sunk in that section of the bay now called “Rattling Bay”. There seemed to be no quarter for the retreating army, and without their general to guide them things turned more and more dire for the control of the peninsula.
Queen Casli arrived at the gates of the White Walled City accompanied by a sizable group of royal soldiers. Despite their appearance, they had come on a diplomatic mission.
She was allowed to enter the city with her men, and met with the Torian High Council. She spent months there, where she successfully negotiated terms of ceasefire that would model the relationship between the Torian Council and the kingdoms of Caelon.
For the sake of simplifying the diplomacy here, representatives from many of the kingdoms and governments that existed arrived at a summit. It was determined that all of the settlements outside of the White Walled City would now have a similar agreement to what Queen Casli and her queendom already had. The Torian Council would no longer have any dominion over any of the settlements on Caelon where there remained a child of the Gifts. The determination was that by possessing the blood of the First Son, they had the right to hold court on their own.
The trade-off was that the Torian Church would have a seat at every court, therefore maintaining influence over all of the land, even if it was not what they initially had desired. All of the existing kingdoms agreed to the terms.
Since Penderona and the Saibhrean Isles never started as Torian-sponsored settlements, they did not have to accept the Torian Church onto their councils and remained autonomous outside of this treaty. Baron Siabahn returned to his people again, where he was pronounced King, despite having no blood of the First Son within him.
And thus ended 32 years of conflict now known to history as The Gifted Wars. Caelon would again know peace for a time, until the advent of the Warathi Conquest, which would transform the peninsula forever.