All across Caelon, regional governors who headed settlements in all of the reclaimed ancient cities began seceding against Torian rule. The Torian council, in desperation, in the year 68 A4, ordered the return of General Tonsior, perhaps the most well-known and highest feared master of the Gifts. Until that time, General Tonsior and the Great Torian Army had been assigned to quell the threats in the South, in the land now commonly known as the Southern Tribelands. The return of the general and his army would not only usher in the bloodiest major conflict of man-on-man warfare in the Age of Kings, it would also unexpectedly result in the eventual conquering of the White Walled City by the Warathi forces, the ultimate defeat of the Torian Empire.
Politics and the Start of the Campaign in the South
The reason for the Torian interest in the Southern Tribelands stems from reports of massive bands of raiders swarming and overwhelming small Torian encampments. When the son of the powerful Torian Councilman Orenius was counted among the dead after an attack by tribesmen at the archaelogical digsite he was overseeing, he immediately pressed the strength of his political pull toward putting an end to the threat to the South. Because he was able to have such an incredible backing by his contemporaries on the council, they were able to get the blessing of the Prime Consul, the religious successor of El Tor and the First Son, in the year 51 A4.
Because there was little resistance in the council, General Tonsior and his Great Army were tasked with making a show of force in the South, to wipe out the tribesmen entirely if possible. General Tonsior, who had just quelled an uprising at Iobina, quietly resisted the orders at first, trying to convince the council that such a move would leave Caelon open to more potential rebellions by the governors, like what happened at Iobina. Ignoring the threat that had not yet arisen, and instead choosing to go full-force against the threat to the South, the council chose to leave the empire vulnerable from within in order to deal with the external threat.
General Tonsior had no choice but to take the bulk of his army, along with his officers, leaving only a splinter of the forces at home to deal with any potential rebellions. The council would not allow any Gifted soldiers to remain at home, claiming that nothing but a full display of power would suffice.
An Unwinnable War
Unlike the traditional forces in Caelon and their traditional tactics and strategy, the scattered tribes in the South followed no such rules of engagement. Night-time raids, attacks during sandstorms and pincer attacks were commonly employed guerilla tactics by the tribesmen. Although the tribesmen were vastly outnumbered by the Torian forces, the Torians took hit after hit due to the untraditional style of the enemy.
Even though General Tonsior and his officers all possessed considerable skill in their Gifts, the fact that the enemy was so unpredictably surgical and chaotic in their attacks, led to a slow decline in the Torian forces over the years that the war was fought. It seemed that every time the Torians would win new ground in the war, the enemy would scatter at the last moment, minimizing their casualties.
The tribesmen, though not possessing the Gifts themselves, were incredibly well-suited to the dangerous terrain. Like other groups scattered far from Caelon, the heritage of the tribesmen was also that of the White Walled City, but pre-dated the return of the First Son. During the Age of Monsters, it was common practice to expel individuals, families, and rarely even entire Houses, from the walls of the city as it was the favored method of capital punishment for criminals. Since the whole world was swarming with demons at that time, it was not an unreasonable thing to assume. Still, many of the exiles found their way South, where there were less demons, and were welcomed into the growing numbers of the nomads who lived there.
With thousands of years of learning the terrain, the tribesmen in the South, though not unified under any single leader, still showed their resilience against incredible odds. The warfare now waged upon them was no exception, and they persisted for years. Even more severely, the single enemy of the Torian army now served as common ground for the scattered tribes to begin to unite over. All they would need now, would be someone to lead them into victory.
Returning Home, Leaving Something Behind
Though the Torian army learned many tricks over the seventeen long years for defeating the tribesmen, word eventually came from the Capital that the armies were to pull out immediately and abandon all activities in the campaign in the South. The Council had proclaimed the war in the South unwinnable, and had sent for the bulk of the forces to return home to deal with the several threats of secession all across Caelon.
Councilman Orenius, who had been the greatest proponent of the war in the South, had also been one of the men who had allowed Casli to ascend to Queen based on her diplomacy alone, had finally seen his position deflated by the rest of the council. He was ousted from the council and would never again hold any seat of power before his death by consumption, two years later.
In the South, the Great Army was split up into many different camps by this time in order to better deal with the tactics of the tribesmen. Because of this, trying to coordinate a safe retreat of troops proved extremely difficult. Recognizing the vulnerability of the separate splinters of the army, the tribesmen took advantage of the situation and raided a few of the smaller groups as they attempted to rejoin the main forces of the army. Though most of the army successfully reconvened for the journey North, there was one force that never completed the journey.
Captain Joseba Uratho, one of the Gifted officers who led a contingent force at the furthest point away from the main force, never returned from the battle front. Nothing is well known about the specifics of how his force fell, but the man’s name may not have faded from history at that time either. Whatever happened to him is unclear, but years later when the unified Tribesmen stormed the White Walled City, the man that led them possessed many gifts. That man became known as Wa’rath the Conqueror, the first emperor of the Warathi Empire. But that is a story for another time.