Battle of Dark River

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"Tang to establish permanent stronghold at Dark River."

The coded message began. "Mage predicts dragons help. Muster all forces to converge. A feint in east." Hylax read the words in the children's book with trepidation. The Tang Empire was on the move again, and this time the goal wasn't simple plunder - they planned to stay.

The war council convened with U-Gene deciding to muster all forces for a third straight campaign season. The Tang Emperor was proving to be a difficult one to dissuade - the audacity that he would establish a stronghold in the Reaches!

The wisdom of that decision would be seen in late June 901 as the unified forces of dwarves, elves, humans, gnomes and orcs crossed the Wilderland River heading south - encountering an overwhelming force of troops coming north from Sandal. The Sandalese forces included the tomb kingdom skeletons, humans and Tang ratmen. Off the western shore, the Tang navy brought forth a great host to land at Freeport.

Dividing forces at the Whispering Hills, Teufeldorf and the elves moved along the coast while Dragonsford, the gnomes and the dwarves took the inland route near the Sands of Time. This two-pronged offensive almost proved to be their undoing as the Sandalese forces assumed the "amoeba" position - leaving several rings of troops to slow down the advancing forces of good while allowing their centralized forces to concentrate on one attack.

In July 901, the knights of Dragonsford scored the first victory of the season catching the skeletons by surprise outside the village of Pembridge. It was a bloody conflict which turned to evil's advantage in early August 901 when a counter-attack of Tang warriors overwhelmed the knights near Pembridge slaying the human army almost to a man. It was the worst defeat for Ernie's troops in almost a decade.

Meanwhile, the dwarven army - successfully kept from engaging the main troops in the north - headed south and into Sandal. In late August 901, they successfully sacked the Sandalese stronghold Whitehall Castle.

While the Tang forces pushed forward - now intent on sacking Freeport and making that their home base - the knights of Dragonsford lost uncounted skirmishes during the fallback. A confused set of orders left the Sulfur Swamps unguarded - allowing the attackers within 60 miles of Freeport.

It was then that the most amazing turn of events occurred. Fleet Admiral Vince decided to break up the Reaches navy, leaving only a token force to guard Freeport. It was a decision that would be discussed over many beers. Immediately the Tang navy moved in for the kill - and easy bombardment of the port city. At odds of 2-to-1, the chances of a Tang loss were tiny. However, it is said that the elven ships fought as if possessed that day. In the end, the Tang armada was broken.

In early September 902, another ground force of elven warriors made a brave stand - being slaughtered almost to a soul - but allowing reinforcements to push the Tang army back some 60 miles. It was clear that the army of evil would fall just one month short of their goal.

In the south, late September brought about the dwarven siege of the Castle of Mirrors followed by October raids on several Sandalese villages.

With the Tang navy broken and the Sandalese army in retreat, the forces of good - although suffering massive elven and human losses -won the day and kept the Tang Emperor's vision of a Dark River homeland from becoming a reality.