Battle of the Susserlin River
The battle occurred on elven territory in the year 4771, M.E.. The Imperial Army, while victorious to this point, had been lead by the Emperor Rallick Anodheles. A brave and successful general, Rallick had lead the army from victory to victory until his death from an arrow wound shortly before the Battle of the Susserlin River. In his place, a high priest of the Church of Koar, Prelate Fzendoor, took command. The prelate was no tactician and lead the Imperial Army into a trap, where it was annihilated by a combined Nalfein army.
The defeat effectively ended the war for the human empire, and secured the borders of the Nalfein nation for centuries to come.
The Battle of the Susserlin River (c. 4771)
The following account, as relating to the Battle of the Susserlin River in Eoantos 4771, is mostly derived from military records and personal accounts from veterans of that era. While the information contained herein is considered accurate, there remains the rare exception where one historian’s sources may differ, if slightly, from another’s.
-- Tempus Thales Military Historian & Philosopher
Prelude to Disaster
(Image: Prelate Fzendoor)
With the Fourth Turamzzyrian Army’s crushing victory against the Nalfein Elves upon the western banks of the Susserlin River, the morale of the troops appeared to be high despite the tragic death of Emperor Rallick. A brief pause in the army’s push upon the Nalfein Nation allowed the officers and men a chance to rest while Prelate Fzendoor, who had assumed command after the Emperor’s death, contemplated the Fourth Army’s next move. The Prelate had been assigned the task of carrying the campaign to its full conclusion, despite some concern from the Turamzzyrian High Command that a prolonged campaign could become dangerous if winter set in while the army was in the field. Ignoring the warnings of the High Command, and his own command staff, Fzendoor decided to press on with the campaign and ordered the 12th Branturian Legion to spearhead the crossing of the Susserlin River.
The Fourth Army’s intelligence staff had mixed feelings about the Prelate’s orders. Beyond the eastern banks of the Susserlin lay the great Ironwood Forest. Very little reconnaissance had been conducted and, therefore, there was little information concerning the area to go on. A majority of the staff believed that the Nalfein army was in shambles and minimal resistance, if any, would be encountered. Others argued that the Turramzzyrians, accustomed to fighting in regimented formations upon open ground, weren’t properly prepared to carry the campaign into the dense forests of the Ironwood. They also argued that the Nalfein Elves, utilizing guerrilla tactics and operating within their own terrain, could pose a potential, and very dangerous, threat. The latter argument was refuted by the intelligence garnered from prisoners taken during the previous battle…the Nalfein army was in tattered disarray. The former argument was outright ignored.
On the second day of Eoantos, Captain Mikail Gardson, one of the Fourth Army intelligence officers, raced to the 12th Branturian Legion’s headquarters to brief the commanding officer, Field Marshal Aldo Hammersbach and his staff, who had just completed the crossing of the Susserlin and moved into the Ironwood Forest. Initial reports indicated an adequately dense forest covering the slightly rolling lowlands leading up to the southeastern edge of the DragonSpine. The size of the trees gave credence to the notion that the Ironwood was the chief source of the Nalfein Nation’s lumber and wood products. What mattered to Captain Gardson, however, was information concerning the possibility of a second army of the Nalfein National Defense Forces (NNDF) massing somewhere within the concealment of the Ironwood for an attack against the 12th Legion. Unfortunately, the senior officers of the legion took Gardson’s suggestion with "indifference and disbelief."
Supported by the 8th Branturian Legion’s 61st Regiment, the 12th Legion had made a nighttime crossing of the Susserlin in order to establish a forward defense perimeter that would provide coverage for the rest of the Imperial army’s crossing. At first glance, the move seemed like a sound tactical decision, but Fzendoor was no tactician. Against the advice of Captain Gardson, who had nagging feelings about the possibility of a second Elven army lying in wait on the eastern side of the Susserlin, the Prelate ordered the crossing with "all due haste." The 12th Legion had landed upon the Susserlin’s eastern banks "without the majority of their supply trains…and in a cavalier frame of mind." With the Nalfein forces rapidly crumbling before Turamzzyrian troops, everyone was convinced it would be an easy task to defeat it and be home in time for the Feast of the Immortals.
By the fourth day of Eoantos, however, numerous fires had mysteriously ignited within the Ironwood Forest, causing concern among the legion’s officers and men. Field Marshal Malros Hussairn, commanding the 10th Tamzyrrian Legion who had just recently completed their crossing of the Susserlin River, saw the smoke as well. Realizing something was amiss, he rode over by horseback to visit the 46th Regiment command post. He discovered to his horror that his former regiment, now led by Lord Talrok Wesfalen, was encamped in a shallow dale and was "casually disposed." He suggested to Lord Wesfalen: "You had better get out of this low ground and get yourself up on a slope where you can provide some protection for the position." Tragically, Field Marshal Hussairn’s words went unheeded.
In the early afternoon, a patrol from the 10th Legion’s 31st Regiment found the Merchants’ Road blocked by a large enemy force, just south of the 46th Regiment’s position. Under cover from the smoke-filled fires, elements of the NNDF’s 123rd Regiment had successfully moved, undetected, closing the main thoroughfare between the 10th and 12th Legions. By early evening, the NNDF had skillfully maneuvered itself, flanking the 12th Legion to the north and the south. Only the area to the east of the regiment’s positions, held by the 61st Regiment, was not in enemy hands. The Susserlin River would choke off any quick escape to the west.
The Nalfein Juggernaut Strikes
(Image: Nalfein Troops Emerge From The Forest)
Late in the evening, the Nalfein juggernaut struck the lines of the 12th Legion’s 45th Regiment. In spite of serious initial losses, the Elves pressed on. Supported by tree-borne archers and a small cadre of war-mages, the enemy quickly overwhelmed the surprised Turamzzyrians. Amidst the haunting sounds of flutes, whistles, drums and even gongs, one Imperial soldier gasped: "By Koar’s mighty beard…a Nalfein funeral!"
Elsewhere, it took just a matter of hours for the 61st Regiment to disintegrate under the extreme pressure of attacks brought to bear against them. Advancing Nalfein troops had soon managed to wedge themselves in between the 45th and 47th Regiments. Moving with uncanny speed, the Elves hurriedly full upon the 47th Regiment with a savagery that the soldiers had not witnessed in the campaign thus far. Isolated from the other units, with reinforcements and supplies nearly depleted, the Turamzzyrians were indeed in a tenuous situation. Soon, Imperial troops were scurrying toward the Susserlin River, the only escape route left to the besieged soldiers.
Lord Uther Hasslemann, commanding officer of the 45th Regiment, tried desperately to get his men into some semblance of order. Burning trees and underbrush, ignited by makeshift incendiary devices fashioned by the Elves, along with the dazzling magic of war-mages and the bright moonlight, transformed the battlefield into daylight. Elven archers, perched among the treetops of the Ironwood, had managed to eliminate the regiment’s standard-bearers and signal-flag carriers thereby cutting off any form of communication and dousing any hope that Hasslemann had of organizing his troops for a last ditch defense. The archers, satisfied that they had the regiment in total disarray, turned their attention to slowly picking off Imperial troops and attempting to choke off the last remaining escape route for the Turamzzyrians.
Late that night, Field Marshal Hammersbach received word to pull back his legion. He dispatched messengers to his hard-hit 45th and 47th Regiments, instructing them to begin their withdrawal immediately. Meanwhile, messengers were sent to the 46th Regiment, instructing them to protect the rear of the retreating units. On parchment, this looked fine, but in reality the plan had no chance of succeeding. The two withdrawing regiments were in total disarray. Men were running headlong into the night with Nalfein Elves nipping on their heels.
To the south and west of the battle, beyond Susserlin Hill, the 46th Regiment was encamped within Seeker’s Dale. Although hearing the din of clashing swords in the distance, no patrols were sent out. The reason? Lord Wesfalen and several of his staff had left earlier that evening for a meeting with the 61st Regiment commander and his staff in order to discuss a passage of lines that would occur the next day. Wesfalen had not yet returned. With most of the senior staff gone, there was little that the regiment could do but wait for their return. The troops remained complacent and unaware of the impending danger. To compound matters, soldiers in observation posts had fallen asleep, apparently trying to stay warm on that frigid fall evening. All in all, no one seemed overly concerned.
"Running Their Swords Through Anyone They Could Find"
Sometime within the dead of night, before the approach of the Hour of Lumnis, that would all change.
In what was considered a daring move, a company of enemy Nalfein Elves, disguised as Imperial troops, crossed the Ironwood Creek Bridge undetected. Members of the 4th Company, assigned the task of protecting the trestle, thought they were soldiers of the 47th Regiment and let the NNDF force pass. Shortly thereafter, a cacophony of bugles and drums broke the night air. The Elves had disposed of their Turamzzyrian uniforms and had begun to spread out, tossing makeshift incendiary devices while tree-borne archers fired on anything that moved. Soldiers, dozing in their tents, were killed as they slept. Lieutenant Regibold Jenkins later commented: "I thought I was dreaming when I heard a bugle sounding taps and the beat of horses’ hooves in the distance. Then, like wraiths materializing out of thin air, shadowy figures started loosing arrows and running their swords through anyone they could find."
A small band of Imperial soldiers, moving to the south and west, managed to escape the NNDF onslaught. Led by Captain Talfor Rikeson, assistant commanding officer of the 46th Regiment, the tiny group swelled to almost 100 strong by the time the men reached the western banks of the Susserlin River the following day.
Meanwhile, after lobbing incendiary devices at the regiment’s command post, Nalfein archers shot soldiers as they emerged from the fiery dwelling. In a last ditch effort, a small band of Imperial archers had set a defense perimeter and began to return fire. Led by Lieutenant Waylon Salaird, the archers provided cover for the fleeing command staff and other nearby soldiers by heroically returning fire. Their bodies were discovered the next day, staked to great Ironwood trees in a crucified manner.
At daybreak, Nalfein forces were still assaulting the 46th Regiment’s positions. A small group of soldiers from the 10th Legion’s 31st Regiment had managed to penetrate the enemy lines and distribute medical supplies to the beleaguered troops. The soldiers managed to relay the message that help would soon arrive.
Death of a Legion
(Image: Tamzzyrian and Nalfein Troops Locked In Combat)
Unfortunately, the relief column never reached the 46th Regiment. Five Nalfein regiments of the 9th Route Army hurled back the rescue force from the 10th Legion trying desperately to reach their comrades. At sundown, on the fifth day of Eoantos, General Ven Sethilarion, who had assumed command of the Fourth Army after Prelate Fzendoor and his personal guard mysteriously disappeared, made the painful decision to order the 10th Legion to withdraw. The 12th Legion was on its own.
Throughout the night, determined Nalfein Elves repeatedly hit the Turamzzyrians’ perimeter. Despite staggering losses, the enemy showed no signs of letting up its attacks. Imperial troops, as disorganized as they were, fought heroically to repel the fierce assaults.
On the morning of the sixth day of Eoantos, survivors of the shattered 46th Regiment realized that no reinforcements were coming for them. A four-man scouting party crawled through the dense foliage of the Ironwood unseen, and found an escape route. "I must have crawled over the bodies of 100 dead Nalfein Elves," Sergeant Makos Stalgrunde later commented. While the party’s two officers continued on, the two enlisted men returned to tell the remaining troops what they had discovered. Remnants of the unit, approximately 38 men in all, assembled on the perimeter’s western edge to make their escape. As they filed by to leave, some of the wounded reached out to their comrades and pleaded with them: "Please don’t forget us. Come back with reinforcements and get us out."
Without warning, the enemy suddenly fired dozens of arrows equipped with makeshift incendiary rounds, completely masking the area with thick smoke. As the NNDF rushed the 46th Regiment’s lines, the soldiers slipped away, leaving the dying and wounded to their fate.
The fight for the Susserlin River was over.
In the coming days, survivors of the battle made their way back to friendly lines on the Susserlin’s western banks. However, losses were horrendous: The 12th Legion’s 45th Regiment lost 31 officers and 958 men; the 46th Regiment counted 34 officers and 1,065 men lost to the battle; and the 47th Regiment’s losses amounted to 30 officers and 894 men. Total regimental losses amounted to 3,012 officers and men, or nearly 87 percent.
The 8th Legion’s 61st Regiment sustained casualties of 37 officers and 1,074 men.
The 10th Legion also took heavy losses as a result of their attempts to both assist the 12th Legion and retreat across the Susserlin River. In all, regimental casualties amounted to 67 officers and 2,521 men.
With two of his three available legions destroyed, General Ven Sethilarion began the grueling task of mounting some form of organized withdrawal. This would prove to be no easy task. With the NNDF quickly seizing upon their initiative, the Elves continued to pound upon the Imperial troops even as they began to pull back. With the 8th Legion covering, the remnants of the Turamzzyrian Fourth Army fell back and began their scramble to the safety of Barrett’s Gorge and the Empire. Over the course of the next three days, Nalfein troops would claim another 2,219 casualties as they continued their harassment of the fleeing Turamzzyrians.
On the sixteenth day of Fashanos 4772, Emperor Theron would sign a treaty with the Nalfein nation, thereby ending the Second Elven War. The Battle of the Susserlin River would go down in history as one of the Empire’s costliest losses, as well as the last battle of a unforgiving war.