The Great Dragonkind Invasion The Fall of Tulith Attis, the Battle of Saerdulin, and the Invasion's Aftermath
Also called the Great Invasion, or the Invasion of 322. It was the largest, most devastating invasion of Dragonkind in history, which took place mainly in the year 322 of the Second Age.
It is not known precisely why such a large offensive took place, nor the goal. Centuries afterwards, manuscripts would be uncovered that suggest that Dragonkind King Xurnon III intended to capture eastern lands for colonization. The veracity of the manuscripts remains in question, and the implausible explanation for the invasion is dismissed by most scholars. To target the Eastlands and Tracia made no sense, scholars say, when nearby Altoria and Masurthia, realms the Dragonkind would have to conquer on their way east, would have sufficed for a massive territorial expansion. So while the rationale for the invasion remains steeped in speculation, certain facts are undisputed.
In the last month of 321 S.A., an army of Dragonkind made a sudden attack into the Blue Mountains, driving through the surprised and unprepared Vanaran forces toward Peldown (a place later to be called Gory Gulch). The Dragonkind moved slowly but methodically and did not seem intent on holding positions, but nonetheless determined to engage Vanaran forces. Vanaran scouts reported road-making activities were taking place behind the Dragonkind, apparently in preparation for a larger army to follow. Several Vanaran battalions were therefore called away from the Mirse region, while additional forces were dispatched from Linlally to face the threat. All this took place over the course of the last two weeks of 321 S.A.
However, six additional Dragonkind armies were massed and waiting just south of the Nalamain Hills. When the first army succeeded in drawing off Vanaran forces from the Mirse region, these went on the march, driving swiftly into the Mirse. While one army turned north and east, engaging Vanaran forces from the rear flanks. Thus engaged on two fronts, the Vanarans did not receive word until much later that the remaining five Dragonkind armies (of which the Vanarans knew nothing) rapidly crossed the Iridelin and turned south. Once clear of Forest Islindia, they moved out into the Plains of Bletharn and split once more. One large force marched south into Altoria while the other rest marched across the Plains of Bletharn. Although the figures are constantly in dispute, it seems that the total strength of the five armies was well over two hundred thousand soldiers, with perhaps as many as three hundred thousand, including many slaves and supply wagons. Many more slaves, and sustaining food and supplies were captured as the armies advanced.
Those Dragonkind that held back the Vanarans were fewer in numbers, but supposedly made up of crack soldiers armed with detailed intelligence concerning Vanaran dispositions, strength, and maps detailing mountain passes, river crossings, and other strategic and tactical locations. Some of these maps and documents were captured, leading to much speculation as to how such information was obtained by the Dragonkind.
The Altorians quickly detected the invading army and mustered for its defense. However, the Dragonkind, moving quickly on foot and horseback, soon overwhelmed the small, ill-prepared Altorian army, sacking and destroying towns and villages as they went. A large force, perhaps an entire army, was sent against Draymoor as the remainder of the Dragonkind force in Altoria turned eastward and marched into Masurthia. The surviving Altorians exacted heavy casualties upon the Dragonkind as they retreated into Masurthia, but they could not halt the advance. Meanwhile, Masurthians were forewarned and gathered to face the invaders. Over the following month, they would slow the Dragonkind, but could not stop them from sacking Solsorna. It was, however, a much diminished Dragonkind army that moved into southern Tracia and laid siege to Forlandis.
Meanwhile, the other Dragonkind army quickly crossed the Plains of Bletharn and fell upon the city of Fisenwold which held out for two weeks of desperate fighting. After the city fell, and with little resistance, the Dragonkind moved into and through the Thunder Mountains just as a winter storm struck the region. Their advance was hampered by snow and freezing rain, and many Dragonkind died of exposure. There would be rumors, for years to come, that they engaged in acts of cannibalism, turning on their slaves and even some of their own comrades.
During these weeks, the Vanarans quickly gathered to their defense and engaged in intense fighting against the two Dragonkind armies in their lands. One of the invading armies was pushing north and west from the Mirse, and the other was by now farther west approaching the region of Ladentree and the River Strayborn. But these armies were not coordinated with each other, and made no effort to link up. Facing the withering onslaught of the Vanaran Fellfaere that now massed against them, the Dragonkind quickly faltered, having virtually no supplies, no supporting columns or any reserves. But they refused to retreat in spite of their hopeless losses. Queen Serith Ellyn, at the front of the fighting, realized that something else was afoot. She was soon confirmed in this view by reliable reports of the large Dragonkind forces now moving south and east. Word was immediately dispatched to Duinnor. Once the Queen was convinced that no credible threat to Vanara itself was imminent, she led an army eastward in pursuit of the eastward marching Dragonkind, hoping that those invading Altoria could be dealt with by that realm. The Queen soon had word that Duinnor was dispatching an army eastward as well, and the two would converge on Fisenwold.
When the Vanaran army reached Fisenwold, they found it sacked, and the surrounding region littered with dead. Serith Ellyn dispatched several parties of Fellfaere to Glareth while she sent others to trail the Dragonkind. At Fisenwold she encamped her army, impatiently awaiting the arrival of Duinnor's army, as was agreed.
Unbeknownst to Serith Ellyn, the first Duinnor army was by then already annihilated when they brazenly marched into Nasakeeria, seeking, it was later thought, to cut a day or two from their march. When Duinnor received word of this, from the lone survivor (a messenger sent back to Duinnor with dispatches), the King was furious and sent out a second army, almost entirely on horseback, to rendezvous with Serith Ellyn. By some accounts it was the largest gathering of mounted soldiers that had ever ridden together, numbering some 4,000 riders.
The Fall of Tulith Attis
Meanwhile, as Serith Ellyn's forces waited, the Dragonkind advanced on Tulith Attis and began their siege. By then, the southern Dragonkind army had swung northward and rejoined those who came through the Thunder Mountains. Tulith Attis, well forewarned, had gathered as many fighters as could be mustered, by some accounts some 30,000 strong, along with many women and children. Although bravely defended, Heneil's forces were outnumbered and out-matched. Tulith Attis, being a relatively small fortress, was so crowded that the missiles shot by the besieger's trebuchets and catapults had devastating effect. According to the few accounts (mostly from Dragonkind sources), no terms of surrender were offered or asked for. By all accounts, the defenders knew that allies were on their way, and they fought all the harder to hold out. However, after two weeks, the fortress was successfully stormed, and a massacre ensued.
The Dragonkind lingered another week, looting and pillaging, before they received reports of several armies converging on them. These were Glarethians marching from the north and Serith Ellyn's Vanaran army which had at last united with that of the late-arriving Duinnor force. Together these three armies converged on Tulith Attis (a smaller, separate Glarethian force marched to Colleton to relieve it). When the armies neared Tulith Attis, they at first thought the place to be on fire with pitch, so thick were the black clouds of vultures that covered the place. What they found filled them with shock, anger, and resolve. Not a single person was found alive. The town of Attis was obliterated, every house leveled, and the stones of its buildings had used as missiles for the Dragonkind trebuchets. The blood of the dead, men, women, and children, stained the walls of the fortress, and bodies littered every yard of ground, some pushed aside piles to make way for looting. Within the fortress itself, it was apparent that a desperate, last-ditch battle had taken place from room to room and hall to hall. And it was evident to all that the undamaged gates of the fortress had been opened from within, which immediately fueled rumors of a traitor within the fortress.
The Battle of Saerdulin
Serith Ellyn quickly reorganized the forces under her direction, and they pursued the fleeing Dragonkind along the banks of the River Saerdulin. Fighting was intense and vicious, with the Dragonkind deftly turning and wheeling in an effort to out-maneuver their pursuers, laying ambushes and traps, and splitting their forces to either side of the Saerdulin. But the armies of the realms split as well, and soon the east and west banks of the Saerdulin were littered with dead. Several days later, the Dragonkind recombined their forces on the western shores of the Saerdulin and crossed southward over the River Lerse. There, using the Lerse to protect their north flank and the River Saerdulin on their east flank, the Dragonkind made their stand.
By now, Serith Ellyn's army was joined by various bands of Men and Elifaen, who reported that Tracia was awash with fighting, but the Dragonkind there had given up their siege of Forlandis and had suffered defeat after defeat, with Altorians and Masurthians entering the fray. They also reported that the Dragonkind were digging in between the Lerse and Saerdulin.
Serith Ellyn quickly made her battle plan. The bulk of her army swung west and south to cross the Lerse, then turned east and then marched north, coming upon the Dragonkind defenses just before sunset. They did not tarry, but with the sun low behind her, Serith Ellyn immediately mounted a full frontal assault against the Dragonkind lines. Meanwhile, two Vanaran captains, Navis and his sister Esildre, each took a large party of Vanaran Fellfaere, one positioned directly across the Lerse from the Dragonkind and the other across the Saerdulin. When Serith Ellyn and her force clashed with the Dragonkind, Navis and Esildre waited patiently for nightfall, and then made their move. Stripped to their skin, and carrying nothing but their swords, Esildre and her force swam the freezing Lerse, while Navis and his company swam across the Saerdulin, each group coming up their opposite banks behind the Dragonkind. Navis and his group engaged first, but had the misfortune of encountering an elite group of Dragonkind waiting in reserve. In the intense fighting, all of the warriors with Navis were soon killed, and he alone fought on with cruel efficiency. At one point, surrounded by the enemy, Navis picked up a slain general with one arm and used his body as a shield against arrows as he continued to fight, advancing deeper and deeper into the rear of the Dragonkind ranks.
Meanwhile, only a few hundred yards away, Esildre and her company at last made it ashore through the swift waters of the Lerse and immediately charged uphill into the north flank of the Dragonkind, who were so intent on Navis that they failed entirely to detect her. Soon the front lines of the Dragonkind faltered, as Esildre's fighters picked up bows and shot arrows into them. Various accounts differ but all agree that the battle lasted until just before dawn, when the last of the Dragonkind were slain. Legend has it the slaughter was so great that the River Saerdulin ran red and full of dead from there all the way to the sea.
During the next few weeks and months, Serith Ellyn's army continued to pursue Dragonkind stragglers throughout the Eastlands and Tracia. But soon divisions began to surface among the armies, with the ranks dividing over blame for the fall of Tulith Attis. There were skirmishes, even, between Men and Elifaen, and bloodshed quickly threatened to undermine all semblance of unity. Duinnor's generals, not wishing to be drawn into a fight with their Elifaen allies, hastily withdrew. Meanwhile, within the Glareth ranks, many Men who had served with distinction were now being attacked by Vanaran Fellfaere. Bloodlust, it seemed, had filled the entire armies with anger and malice. At last, Prince Thalamir of Glareth and Serith Ellyn together announced that any violence amongst and between their forces would be treated as an act of high treason, and to convince their soldiers, they were forced to execute several dozen, and the two leaders personally carried out those sentences upon their own fighters.
Every realm was touched in some way by the Great Invasion. Altoria, Masurthia, Tracia, and the Eastlands were the primary battlegrounds, with Duinnor and Glareth each losing many thousands of men (Duinnor lost thousands of men to Nasakeeria alone). Vanara suffered the fewest battlefield casualties, but its relationship with Duinnor was shaken. Tracia, the Eastlands, Altoria, and Masurthia would never fully recover. Vast tracts of land were utterly destroyed, with towns and villages entirely wiped out, forests obliterated, and fields burned. Forlandis, Tracia's capital city, survived but was heavily damaged. Solsorna, in Masurthia, was in ruins, and Draymoor would be held under siege for nearly the entire year. The region around Tulith Attis would never recover the wealth or power it previously held, and few could be enticed to live there. Attis, the town, would never be rebuilt. Obliterated by the besieging army, the site would become a forlorn plain, with two large barrows beneath the looming walls of the doomed fortress. The only evidence of the once-thriving community to survive would be two stone pillars that marked the location of the town's western gate. The fortress itself would be abandoned, left to the spirits of the dead and to the decay of time, while legends and tales about the place would soon be told.
The Eastlands was devastated and would never recover. It population was greatly diminished, for many were killed, disease and starvation took its toll on those who remained, while many others fled and would never return. All this was hampered by inept and corrupt rulers. Eventually, the Eastlands would lose its status as a Realm and becoming a territorial dominion of Glareth Realm. This, in turn, would give rise to further disputes with Tracia concerning borders, and would contribute to unrest which would eventually lead to revolt within Tracia later in the Second Age.
The populations of the invaded lands would struggle to cope with the aftermath. They would suffer hunger, sickness, and terrible dread for years to come. But the greatest lasting effect of the Great Invasion would be the mistrust that would plague the realms of the world. Vanara would never again trust Duinnor. Tracia would slowly recover only to tear itself apart with civil upheaval over and over. The Great Invasion was a turning point which presaged the decline of the Elifaen and the rise of Men. Slowly the center of power would shift north from Vanara to the little kingdom of Duinnor and its Unknown Kings. And though Duinnor would never again be trusted, it would quickly assert its power over all other Realms. In Vanara, particularly, Duinnor would assert itself, insisting on a permanent military presence in Vanara to defend against further Dragonkind incursions. Vanara would continue to grow weaker and more dependent on Duinnor's support, which Duinnor's Kings would use to further weaken and undermine Vanara's power.
Courtesy of The Reader's Companion to the Year of the Red Door
© 2016 by William Timothy Murray
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