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1207 RE-- The Highsummer Defiance

Date: July-November, 1207 RE
Outcome: Pyrrhic Victory for the Gauntish nobility of Seresbury, Isington and Stonecross. Decisive victory for the Gauntish Crown.
Belligerents: The Gauntish Nobility and Crown of the Athral Isle vs. the Sons of the Athral Defiance.
Gauntish Commanders: Countess Heria Ottenmeer of Seresbury, Count Erich Patter of County Isington and Countess Ria Dossgartt of County Stonecross, Sir Xavier Gosst, Lord of War, Markus Eisenhart.
Athral Commanders: Oner Tomas, Graham Shepherd, Aaron Shepherd, Nemia the Three Fingered, a blacksmith1, fieldhand2, and bandit7.
Strength: varies. At the battle of Kalial Hill:
                    Defiance: 800 farmers, craftsmen, bandits, and other rebels.
                    Gauntish: 600 Gauntish and sympathizing nobles and soldiers.
Casualties:                     Defiance: Unknown in total, probably at least 100-200 at the Battle of Kalial Hill.
                    Gauntish: 250+ at the Battle of Kalial hill alone, approximately 400 in total.

From 1201-1207 RE, Seresbury County on Athral Isle was afflicted by a drought that slowly killed off the farms in the region. In spite of this hardship, the Gauntish Countess, Heria Ottenmeer, refused to relax any of the already punishing taxes levied upon her family's lands. Instead, as farmers began to fall behind in their taxes, she steadily increased them in an attempt to punish those who failed to pay. When this did not work, she dispatched her soldiers, also Gauntishmen, and allowed them to carry out a handful of beatings, confiscate livestock, and carry off other valuables to compensate for the unpaid taxes.

It may be argued that the taxes were, in fact, very badly needed by the Ottenmeer family to maintain their lands and people both on the Isle and back in Gaunt. The locals, however, were none too interested in this. The afflicted farmers and craftsmen complained and talked about resisting for the whole six years of the drought. In 1207, the conflict between the Countess and her subjects came to a head.

In July of that year, several of the Countess's guards roughed up and maimed a local miller, Oner Tomas, in the village of Uethil for tax default. Oner's mill had been hit hard by the drought, driving him into poverty, but the Countess's guards did not see it this way. After a prolonged beating, they forced Oner's hand into his mill, crushing it. Oner's screams brought the rest of the village to the mill, including the town blacksmith1 and a fieldhand2, sparking a riot. Of the ten guards, the hundred-plus villagers managed to seize and kill six of them. The remaining four guards escaped, killed eight villagers in the process, and reported what happened to the Countess. Sure that the Countess would have no mercy for them, as she had shown none thus far, the inhabitants of Uethil quickly came to a decision. Those willing to do so stayed to fight, while the rest of the village fled. Those who chose flight dispersed among other nearby villages, so they could not be easily singled out. Among those who chose to remain, Oner Tomas emerged as leader, his mangled hand wrapped in a thick bandage. He organized the construction of defenses around the village, and formed the strategy of the resistance. The twenty years Oner had spent fighting the Gauntish invasion first under King Ardith and later under Prince Auberic were put to good use in this effort, and he was supported by the fieldhand, and another villager3.

Those who fled Uethil took with them word of what was happening back in their hometown, and their tale attracted local bandits and other Athral nationals already wanted by the law, interested in resisting the Gauntish. In the two days it took for the Countess to mount a response, the defenders of Uethil had grown to one hundred and fifty farmers, bandits, and craftsmen. Many of these were veterans of the Gauntish invasion in the 1100's, or had been involved in like resistance since then. The Countess reached Uethil with a band of thirty soldiers in tow, all expecting a small band of disorganized rabble, and found herself outnumbered five to one. While the Countess escaped, all but two of her men4,5, were killed in the ensuing battle. A portion of the rebels under the command of the Blacksmith and a young rebel named Graham Shepherd, followed the Countess back to her castle, Whitehorn, and laid siege to it. The rest stayed with Oner Tomas. Whitehorn Castle would resist the siege for the next three months months, until the end of the Highsummer Defiance at the battle of Kelial Hill. Nonetheless, this effectively removed the countess from the larger conflict for its duration.

Some whispered that this resistance would be the beginning of a popular rebellion, but most knew that it was only a matter of time before the occupiers brought sufficient forces to crush their meager rebellion. All too aware of the danger, Oner Tomas kept his forces on the move. Against the advice of the other leaders in the rebellion, he steered clear of settlements that could help the rebels, not wanting to drag anyone else into what he saw as a lost cause. Instead, Oner led his rebels, now calling themselves the Defiant Sons of Athral (shortened to the Defiance over time) to raid the homes of lesser Gauntish nobles, and Athral sympathizers to Gauntish rule. Organized into strike bands led by his chosen leaders4,5,6+ they slew several knights (Sir Gunter Harros, Sir Wilhelm Montas, Dame Yaria Korrus, possible PC parent?), local lords (Lord Mayor Mikal Orrssun of Eskelbridge, Lady Dau Stoort of Idden Hall), and Baron Adalbart Huthgarr in the first two weeks after the rebellion began. By this point the Defiance had grown to three hundred in number and included such notables as the bandit queen Nemia the Three Fingered, anti-Gaunt rebel Bloody-Handed Uthgart, and another notorious thief7. In spite of the auspicious beginning, these recruits made Oner Tomas nervous, as he remained certain that their cause would eventually be quashed.

By August, the neighboring Gauntish Counts had joined Countess Ottenmeer against the Defiance, fearful that the rebellion would spread into their domains as well. Count Erich Patter of County Isington and Countess Ria Dossgartt of County Stonecross joined forces, marshaling two hundred infantry and one hundred cavalry under the command of Sir Xavier Gostt. These forces underestimated the ability of what they thought to be untrained rabble to move quickly, and were not sufficiently mobile to catch and crush them. Instead, the forces under Sir Gostt's command were caught by surprise whole crossing the Vanmire River, their forces cut in half, and the cavalry unprepared. Desperate to do as much damage before the inevitable end, Oner commanded a slaughter, accepting the surrender of Sir Gostt only after more than half his men were killed or gravely wounded. Oner and the rest of the leaders of the Defiance allowed Sir Gostt to leave with his remaining troops, but only on the condition that they leave behind their armaments, and swear an oath not to return to Seresbury County again. Considering himself roundly defeated, Sir Gostt held to this oath until the end of his days. Unfortunately, the end of his days came all too swiftly, for he was brought up on charges of treason after ignoring a royal edict to return to Seresbury County to put down the rebels.

Enraged and now truly frightened, Count Patter and Countess Dossgartt rallied new forces as quickly as possible under a new commander. They wanted to strike before word of Sir Gosst's defeat spread and the rebellion gained more strength from it. They also sent to King Sigmar I for reinforcements. Although the King responded, this display of weakness crippled them in the eyes of the Gauntish court, and they still have not recovered politically. They took a whole month to muster their ultimate force: over six hundred infantry, archers, and a smattering of cavalry, the largest host seen on Athral Isle since the rebellion of Prince Auberic. In that time, the rebels had gained strength too, and the rebellion spread across Seresbury County to the point where no part of the county could be said to be under the rule of law. Local lords fled, tax collectors and bailiffs were beaten, and the chaos threatened to spread to neighboring counties. In spite of Oner Tomas's initial fatalism, it began to almost look like the rebels could win.

The forces of County Stonecross, County Isington, and King Sigmar I crossed into Seresbury County along the Raven's Highway, the ancient road that stretches from one end of the Isle to the other and is said to reach all the way to the Grim Prison. Instead of pursuing the rebels, the royal army, under the command of the Lord of War, Markus Eisenhart, marched to the first village in Seresbury County on the Raven's Highway and burnt it to the ground, killing everyone they found. The proceeded to do this to the next three towns, then veered off the Raven's Highway toward Uethil, forcing the rebels to face them or see their families and homes destroyed.

The fastest road to Uethil from the Raven's Highway passes Kalial Hill, one of the highest points in Seresbury County and the home to the last bones of an ancient stone fortress. The hill sits on the border to the country proper and provides an excellent tactical position, so the rebels dug in their defenses there and waited. The Gauntish forces, led by the Lord of War, arrived two days later and immediately attacked the hill. The battle lasted from dawn on 25th November until midday, six hundred veteran Gauntish troops against eight hundred rebels with a good defensive position. For most of the day the rebels held their round, and looked as though they might win the day. Shortly after noon, however, a series of false retreat signals were sent out among the rebels. These signals caused the rebels to break their line, allowing the royal forces to sweep into the cracks and penetrate the defenses of Kalial Hill. Within an hour, the rebels were put to flight, brought low by treachery within their own ranks. One of bandit-rebels, Aaron Shepherd, sent a message after this capture which indicated that the bandit queen Nemia the Three Fingered sold the rebels out for a pardon from King Sigmar I, or perhaps another bandit7. His brother, the same Graham Shepard who still maintained the siege of Whitehall believed his story, though others among the rebel ranks were more dubious. It is more certain that one of the officers of the Defiance equipped with a signal horn had to have given the order, of which Nemia was one, and she was the only clear leader of the Defiance who was not captured or killed. Even though the Gauntish Forces carried the day, they paid heavily for the victory, suffering forty percent casualties. The military forces of Counties Stonecross and Isington remain crippled, and their political future in doubt.

The leaders of the Defiance who were not killed in the battle were captured and dragged to Uethil. They were executed by hanging in the town square. No one was allowed to touch or remove the bodies until they rotted and fell to the ground. As the nooses were placed about the necks of the condemned, Oner Tomas began singing an old Athral Folk song, Wanderer on the Raven's Highway, about a man traveling the Raven's Highway and bringing justice to the many criminals he meets by killing them and sending them to the Grim Prison at the road's end. Aaron Shepherd and the other condemned leaders took up the song as well, which unnerved the Gauntish executioners so that they rushed through the remainder of the hangings. Unfortunately for them, a simple snapping of the neck was not enough to end this song, and the corpses of the leaders sang on into the evening, only stopping when the last ray of sunlight was gone. Since that day Uethil has been abandoned as a haunted town, and whispers about the ghosts of the Highsummer Defiance stalking Seresbury County looking for revenge are commonplace.

As for matters in County Seresbury, the besiegers inflicted serious damage to castle Whitehorn, from which it has still not recovered. Countess Ottenmeer's fortunes were seriously depleted, most of her soldiers killed, and the rebels fought off three attempts to lift the siege made by other nobles. This effort drained manpower from the efforts to end the Highsummer Defiance, allowing those forces under Oner Tomas to survive longer than they would have otherwise. When the Highsummer Defiance was finally crushed, the besiegers, still led by the Blacksmith from Uethil, received word before the Gauntish forces reached them, allowing them to fade into the wilds and avoid being caught. To this day, there is substantial reward promised for any information leading to the capture of the perpetrators of the Siege of Whitehorn Castle. Unfortunately for any would-be bounty hunter, the Countess has not recovered from the siege and cannot currently afford to pay the reward she has promised.