The Fall of Maractania

by Christian O'Kane

CR 75

The wall was young compared to the ancient structure later generations would call Metamor Keep. It was only a mere few centuries old. This wall stood at the mouth of the valley, some twelve miles north of the mysterious Keep. A place where the tight mountain pass gave way to the rough hills and forests of the Giantdowns. It was at this point that the Suielman empire had stopped it's expansion. Later generations would know this place as Metamor Valley but for now it is known as Maractania.

Ahead lay the wild and dangerous lands of Tirurcium. Behind them lay the settled and civilized lands of the empire. The capital was a long way away and the legions had come this far conquering all but could go no further. So to guard the lands behind they built a wall of earth, timber and stone that ran from one side of the valley mouth to the other. Separating the two lands. The wall was of stone, thick, large and well mortared. In front of that they dug a ditch, deep and wide. In front of the ditch they placed vast fields of small spikes to slow down or cripple an attacker.

For centuries these defenses and the legionaries who manned them stood firm, protecting the civilized places from the northern wildlands. For a long time troops sent from the south kept the wall strong and clear of trouble. But Pyralis is a long way away and all too soon emperors forgot about the wall and the people who guarded it. The flow of replacements slowed down with time and finally stopped altogether. Legionnaires who guarded the wall were the sons of those who had guarded it before them. Just as their sons would after them. Still there were important tasks to be done. Ditches cleared and redug, stone to be repaired, patrols to be ridden and the ever present sentry duty.

The first attack came on a moonless night. A force of lutins over ten thousand strong came slinking out of the darkness. They crept through the spikes and past the ditch without a sound. Then they climbed the walls without any ladders or rope, using just their hands and feet. They made no noise as they climbed but the sentries were ready for them. A shower of arrows, pilums and sling stones rained down on them sending hundreds to their deaths. But still more followed climbing over the dead and wiping the blood from the stones as they climbed. they were only driven off when five hundred cavalry raced out to slaughter them.

The respite lasted a mere two hours before the next attack started. This time behind the waves of lutins came scores of ogres and giants some throwing stones and others pushing massive siege towers ahead of them.

In front of the wall was a ditch. Deep and wide, this ditch stopped all towers and other siege engine. It was a formidable obstacle but thousands of lutins rushed up to the edge and started tossing in rocks, wood, brush and buckets of dirt. The defenders on the walls rained down arrows spears and all manner of deadly projectiles. But no matter how many lutins died still others quickly took their places and kept on filling the ditch. Soon it was no longer an obstacle and the siege towers rolled unhindered towards the walls in a dozen places.

Catapults thumped as ballistae slammed and bows twanged filling the air with rocks, arrows, flaming balls of pitch and yard long bolts. Towers burned as battering rams were smashed and everywhere lay the dead and the dying. Their shrieks and screams could be heard over the roar of the battle. A section of wall was taken, then retaken, then taken again. A tower, it's battlements smashed and its base pounded by a ram collapsed into a heap of rubble. A thousand lutins charged into the breach only to be met by legionnaires, their shields locked into a wall. The attackers slammed against it like a wave crashing against a tide washed rock. The soldiers slowly, step by step were pushed back by the lutins. sheer weight doing what skill could not. Each step the attackers gained was paid for in blood. A score of lutins lay dead for each foot of ground taken.

Two giants stepped forward and smashed at a section of wall with their bare hands, each punch smashing stone and wood. Chips and splinters flying in all directions. A well aimed bolt from a ballista slammed into one giant's throat and the monster tumbled backward. It's fall smashing a hundred lutins to pulp. A streak of flames raced from a nearby tower and struck the other giant in the chest. The massive figure suddenly burst into flames. Bellowing with a roar that deafened everyone nearby it stumbled backward, racing away from the wall. Everywhere it went flames sprang up till a trail of death and burning destruction could be seen.

But the respite was brief. The flames were extinguished and the wall had already been badly damaged. Before it could be shored up the stones collapsed into a heap making yet another breach. More lutins charged forward heedless of the storm of projectiles that rained down on them. The great holes torn in their ranks were instantly filled by more warm bodies and they charged onward.

Finally there were just too many breaches and not enough legionnaires to fill them. Some soldiers stood their ground to the end trying to take as many lutins with them as possible before they died. Many fled trying to make the perceived safety of a walled fort of town. Some made it, others did not. By dawn only the main gate held. Its defenders fighting with all their energy. All night they kept driving off the attacks till its walls were battered down. It did not truly fall till the last of its defenders lay dead.

Long before then the invaders had pulled down the wall and poured into the valley itself burning homes, villas, farms and towns. but the day long delay in taking the wall had not been wasted. Outlying farms, villas and buildings were empty and all the towns and cities had their gates closed and walls lined with soldiers. But it did the people little good. Walls meant to withstand an occasional raid were of little good against an horde of this magnitude. Some held out for most of the night but most fell before midnight. In the city of Camulodunum capital of the province the fighting was at its worst. No one had any illusions about being able to withstand the assault but still they fought on seeking anything to help them survive. Desperate people do desperate things. Spells were cast and rituals performed in a last effort to keep all in the city safe. It failed.

Dawn in the valley was as dark as twilight with the massive pall of smoke from thousands of fires. Everywhere there swarmed lutins, giants and ogres. Here and there small islands of resistance held out but not for long. Soon the entire valley was in flames. All that stood untouched was Metamor Keep itself. The tall, mysterious structure stood untouched amidst the burning town that surrounded it. The massive edifice provided an unexpected refuge as none of the attackers would go near it, mindful of it's frightening legend and terrifying looks. Many frightened survivors huddled close to those old and mysterious walls watching their world burn down around them. They were safe from harm but not from the sights and sounds of the devastation.

Where the capital had been hung a deadly pall of gloom and shadow that covered everything. Of those who had been in it whether attacker, defender or simple bystander nothing remained nor had escaped the darkness. Neither human, lutin, ogre or giant. All inside were dead and its treasures were now guarded by something even the hordes could not assail. The mages and shamans with the invaders said that some terrible magic had taken over there. It might fade with time but they didn't know when. Till then it's vast riches lay beyond reach.

But the invaders did not wait. There were more easily attacked and richer towns to south. The invaders moved south burning and looting as they went till they reached the end of the valley. Stretched out in front of them was all of the Midlands.